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Title: Whirlaway: A Story of the Ages Author: H. C. F. Morant * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1500231h.html Language: English Date first posted: March 2015 Most recent update: March 2015 This eBook was produced by: Colin Choat Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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To My Wife
This Book is Dedicated
Introduction By Frank Tate, C.M.G., I.S.O., M.A.
(President Australian Council For Educational Research)
I. Lyell Lodge
II. In the Cambrian Period
III. In the Ordovician Period
IV. In the Silurian Period
V. In the Devonian Period
VI. In the Carboniferous Period
VII. In the Permian Period
VIII. In the Triassic Period
IX. In the Jurassic Period
X. In the Cretaceous Period
XI. In the Eocene Period
XII. In the Oligocene Period
XIII. In the Miocene Period
XIV. In the Pliocene Period
XV. In the Pleistocene Period
XVI. Notes And Suggestions
(There are numerous black and white illustrations)
1. Under Her
Arm She Gathered the Book and the Keys
2. The Clock Face which Showed Helen the Various Periods of the World
3. Picking Tirri Up, She Leaped on the Fallen Tree-trunk
4. Why, Here is Old Trachodon, Mr. Rough Tooth; He is a Sweet-tempered Old Fellow
5. Triceratops is His Name, and it Means Three-horned Face
6. "What a Pretty Place!" She Cried. "And There is Little Paul Pry Having a Drink."
7. The Giant Sloth Reached the Bank of the River, and Regarded Tirri With Evident Amazement
8. That's a Big Hairy Mammoth with His Companion and Friend the Woolly Rhinoceros
9. "That is a Moa," Replied Whirlaway. "Hasn't He Tremendous Legs!"
TO THE CHILDREN, YOUNG AND OLD, WHO READ THIS BOOK
This is not wholly a fanciful tale. The things that Helen and Whirlaway saw were real things that existed long ago on our Earth. The living descendants of the plants and animals mentioned in the book are with us to-day.
"But," you may ask, "how do we know what the early types were like? Who found out their story? By what means was it discovered?"
The answer is Science and Scientists. Patient investigators in many countries, working as one great body—a true League of Nations—seeking only truth, have examined fossil remains all over the world: mammoths buried beneath the frozen plains of Siberia, strange relics embedded in coal, or forming component parts of cliffs, or quarried from rocks, or dredged from the sea-floor. These they have studied and compared, and the result of their labours has been to reconstruct the history of past ages. Not in complete detail, for the work is still going on, but sufficient for the purposes of this book.
Maybe the reading of Whirlaway, "A Story of the Ages," will turn the minds of some of you to our National Museums, where many of the skeletons of the animals mentioned may be seen, and the wonderful links connecting all life. Maybe what you see there will encourage you, too, to find specimens and so add to the sum of human knowledge.
Should this happen, and on inspecting the collections you are able to clothe the great skeletons and see them as they were when they roamed over the earth in the long-distant past, I, who conceived the tale, and the many learned and kindly people who helped rue in the search for truth, will feel that our toil has not been in vain.
For substantial help in the preparation of this book, grateful acknowledgments are due to Mr. F. Chapman, formerly Government Palaeontologist for the Commonwealth of Australia, and to Mr. R. A. Keble, Palaeontologist to the National Museum, Melbourne, both of these gentlemen having been kind enough to check the manuscript for scientific accuracy and to supervise the drawings; to Miss Eleanore Macfarlane, a Melbourne journalist specially interested in writing brightly and happily for young people, it was she who christened my little Sunbeam "Whirlaway," and who collaborated with me in writing the story; to Mr. Gilbert M. Wallace, formerly Editor of the Publications of the Victorian Education Department, who wrote most of the included verses, revised the others, and edited the whole manuscript; to Miss Jean Elder, the artist of the book, who took infinite pains to make her pictures of plants and animals true to type; to Mr. Frank Tate, C.M.G., I.S.O., M.A., President of the Australian Council for Educational Research, who gave the author whole-hearted encouragement; to Professor G. S. Browne, MA., of the Chair of Education, University of Melbourne, for stimulus and suggestion; and to Mr. George Sutton for his help.
During the past thirty years the introduction of Nature Study into our schools and a widened and more realistic treatment of Geography have given school youngsters a different outlook upon the world around them. But so far there has been little effort to bring home to them the story of the Earth's past through the successive geological eras.
The children of to-day, not excluding children of an older growth, may be congratulated on having so fascinating a story as Whirlaway made for them out of material which many of us older folk, who learned a few scraps out of geological textbooks or encyclopaedias, found harsh and crabbed. The original verses which lighten the story throughout often introduce a background of humour and philosophy understandable by young folk.
In this tale there are no "Snarks" or "Boojums," "Guffer Birds" or "Pobbles," but only veritable creatures that lived and moved and ceased to be ages ago. It adds to the interest of the story that what is said and represented pictorially of those queer creatures is vouched for by high scientific authority.
Readers of this Story of the Ages should visit our museums with more eager curiosity and more intelligent appreciation. The book is an ideal one for the children's library, whether in the home or in the school.
10th April, 1936.
"O Earth, what changes hast thou seen!"
Rain, rain, rain! Would it never stop? It drummed on the roof; it lashed the window panes; it sang in the spouts; it drenched the trees, flattened the grass, and bowed the flowers in the garden; it made an overflowing river of every open drain. At the height of its malice it would change to hail, and then the house resounded like a huge rattle, which might have pleased a giant's child, but certainly did not please Helen.
No wonder Helen felt peevish! Only yesterday she had moved with her father and mother into this big, rambling house, so near the cliffs and the sea; and, like every healthy, inquisitive little girl of twelve, she wanted to explore, she wanted to find out about everything indoors and out of doors. And now the bothersome rain had come to damp her spirits.
The very name Lyell Lodge had fired her imagination. Her father had told her that the former owner, Mr. Barrow, a very learned man, had named it after Sir Charles Lyell, a famous geologist. Of course Helen wanted to know what a geologist was, and her father had said it was a man who studied the Earth's crust, and found in it many strange things, among them the remains of plants and animals that had lived millions of years ago, many of them unlike anything we see in the world to-day.
Helen had not even known that the Earth had a crust. She knew it was round, like a dumpling; but dumplings don't have crusts unless they are baked; and, if the Earth had a crust, it must be a different sort of crust. Helen had never been very much interested in crusts; she had liked better what was underneath them. Now, what could be underneath the Earth's crust? She thought of those things while the rain beat down, and she wondered if this old house held the key to them. She had been told that the former owner had been a very wise man, and she had already seen that he had left many books and papers behind him. She must look into them before long. She felt that Lyell Lodge was a place of mystery, where anything might happen.
She was alone in the house. Her father and mother had driven off to their old home soon after breakfast, before the rain started. They wanted to fetch a few little things they had left behind. So they told Helen to amuse herself till they came back; they would not be long. Doubtless the rain had delayed them. "You won't be frightened, dear, will you?" her mother had said. "You can sort out my work-basket while we're away, and here are your paint-box and drawing book and your jigsaw puzzle. There's a good coal-fire burning, and I'll wheel the table near the fire, and you'll be all right."
But work-basket and paint-box and jigsaw puzzle had soon become irksome to Helen, who wanted to explore the garden. "It's no use waiting for Mother and Dad," she said to herself; "if I can't go out into the garden, I'll ransack the house. I wonder if there's anything interesting down in the cellar. I'll start with that, just because I'm a bit frightened of it. Come, come, Helen; you're getting a big girl now. Twelve years of age! No nervousness, Miss," she said aloud, imitating the tones of her teacher. So down the steps she went to the huge, dim cellar, her heart fluttering. The first thing she saw, when her eyes had become used to the dusk, was a large box, bound with metal at the corners. Treasure, perhaps! She opened the lid and found, not pearls or diamonds or Spanish doubloons, but great lumps of common rock. "Bother!" said Helen. The next thing she saw, on the shelf nearby, was a large book with an old-fashioned binding. "Pictures, I hope!" Yes, there were pictures, coloured ones. "You come with me to the fire," she said to the book, "heavy as you are." As she was making her way to the cellar door with her burden, her left foot hit something that jingled. Laying down the book, she picked up a bunch of keys. "Curious!" she said; "I've never seen keys like these before. A green one, a yellow one, a red one! Rainbow keys! Keys to the treasure at the foot of the rainbow! I must show them to Mother."
With keys and book she got back to the warm sitting-room, and there was her mother drying her wet clothes and drying the wet fur of Helen's pet koala bear, Tirri, who had come with her to his new home. "Oh, you've brought my dear old Shiny Black Nose! Welcome home, Tirri!" And she perched him on one shoulder. "But where's Father?
"He had to go back for something else we forgot. He won't be here again till the afternoon," was the answer.
Helen told her mother about her visit to the cellar and showed her the keys and the book. "Yes," said her mother, "no doubt we shall find many strange things in this house. Mr. Barrow was a very peculiar man. He lived in this big house all alone with his books and his specimens. The neighbours around here used to call him the' Mystery Man ', because he used to disappear from the house and be away for weeks at a time. Yet no one ever saw him leave the house or return to it. He hardly spoke to any of them, but spent most of the day-time collecting plants and stones and most of the night in writing and reading. Your Father and he had been friends at college when they were young men. Mr. Barrow was a very brilliant student at the college, and afterwards he contributed to scientific journals, and his name was well known all over the world."
"Where is he now, Mother?" asked Helen.
"I am sorry to say, dear, that he died suddenly. Afterwards his lawyers wrote to your father, telling him that Mr. Barrow had made a will leaving him this house and garden for the sake of old friendship. Along with the will he had lodged with the lawyers a letter for your father, saying that he did not expect to live long; but he hoped that after his death your father would come to stay in the house and be as happy with wife and child as he had been with his books. And that is why we are here."
"Poor dear Mr. Barrow!" said Helen, her eyes filling with tears.
"Now, my child, I must be off to the kitchen," said the mother. "Sit by the fire and look at your book. Tirri will keep you company."
So Helen settled herself comfortably in a deep arm-chair with the big book on her knees, and Tirri curled up on the hearth-rug at her feet, his black nose buried in his soft fur, but one claw still clasping a little spray of gum leaves.
Helen found strange pictures in the book. They showed her the queerest and most grotesque animals, bulkier than the elephant at the Zoo and longer-necked than the giraffe. Some of them had spiky wings like the dragons in her fairy-tale book.
"Thank goodness you're only pictures," said Helen, "and well fastened down, or what would poor Tirri do? I wonder if there ever were such creatures. You give me the creeps! You make me believe in Bunyips. Never mind, you're just pictures at present, and I'll tell you what I think of you. You," pointing her finger at one fierce-looking animal, "you're a fierce one: and I wouldn't ask you to dinner. One of us would go away satisfied, and it wouldn't be Helen. As for you, sir" (turning to another page), "you're only stupid, though you're trying to look wise. No one ever was half so wise as you're making yourself out to be. Your nose is snubby, sir, and your toes are stubby, sir, and I shall call you Mr. Solemn Stupid; so there!"
"Why," she went on with a laugh, "that's almost poetry. Let me see:
"Your nose is very snubby, sir;
Your feet are very stubby, sir;
You look so very grubby, sir;
You're really such a fright.
You don't look very wise, sir;
You've funny little eyes, sir;
But I shouldn't criticize, sir;
I know it's not polite."
But here her "poetry" ended in a giggle. When she had recovered sufficiently she turned to another page.
"Here's a long-necked one! It must be lunch-time with you before you've finished swallowing your breakfast. And you, sir, why do you want all those spikes on your wings? You couldn't fly through the trees with them, or you'd get caught, like Absalom. And did anyone ever see such an ugly creature as this? I wonder what your mother thought of you. Tirri, my dear, you look handsomer than ever." Again she turned the leaves.
"And here's another monster with a long, long, long, long tail, and a name as long. D-I-P—I'll get Dad to tell me how to say it. You wouldn't do for a circus; you'd scare the people away. I know, if I wanted to see you it would be from a very, very high tower through a telescope or out of an aeroplane fitted up with bombs. Ah, well, this is the last," and she closed the book with a snap.
Then she clasped her hands behind her brown curls and stared. thoughtfully into the fire, which now and then gave out a little puff of flame when a tiny volume of gas was let out of its black cell and became radiant with freedom. Her father had told her about these things. He had said that every spark in the fire was a sunbeam that had shone, millions of years ago, on the plants that had formed the coal. "What a strange, strange world we live in!" thought Helen. Red, yellow, and blue, the little flames danced before her. A coal slipped, the fire gave out a fiercer glow, and then, POUF!—a bright spark shot out, whirled round and round in the air, and settled suddenly at Helen's feet, close beside the sleeping koala.
Roused from her fancies, Helen gave a little jump, and looked for the spark lest it should set the rug on fire and burn her poor sleeping Tirri. Then she gave a big gasp, for the spark had turned to a merry little elf-like figure, dressed in the gayest colours, and dancing and whirling as if for joy. He wore a rich red cape, which he had thrown back like a Spanish cloak. He had pointed shoes and tight-fitting green trousers. But his waistcoat!—it was superb! It shone like Joseph's coat with all the colours of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Fancy cutting up a rainbow to make a waistcoat! Yet the brightest things about the little man were his eyes, which twinkled like diamonds. After a time he stopped his whirling and dancing, yawned, thrust his slender fingers through his red-gold hair, sat down on the hearth-rug, clasped his hands around his knees, and steadily stared at Helen.
He was such a radiantly friendly little mite! She smiled down at him to show him he was welcome. He stood up and bowed with a flourish, then asked, in the most musical voice one could imagine, "May I come up on the chair beside you?"
"Do!" said Helen, and he clambered up in a twinkling. He had all the quickness of a grasshopper.
"Do you know," Helen impulsively burst out, "you are the funniest little man I have ever seen? Did you really and truly come out of those coals on the fire?"
"I really and truly did, young lady; and very glad I was to escape from that black jail, where I had been shut up for a hundred million years."
"A hundred million years! A hundred million!" cried Helen. "Why, you don't look much older than I do, and you're not nearly so big."
"Nor so beautiful," said the little man with a smile. "But what I say is true. A hundred million years is as nothing to eternity. And size does not matter; it is only character that counts."
Somehow she didn't have any fear of her strange and unexpected visitor; but Helen saw that she must be very careful with this little man, who was so ready with his answers. "Tell me," she asked, "are you an elf, a gnome, or a goblin?"
"What a childish question!" was the somewhat impatient reply. "Can't you see," drawing himself to his full height, "that I am something much more wonderful? I belong," he said, proudly throwing back his cloak and revealing his rainbow vest, "to the brightest and lightest family in the world; I am a Sunbeam. Let me sing you a song of the Sunbeams." And, in his pleasant little voice, he piped out:
Oh, we come from our father, the Sun,
On our eight-minute trip to the Earth;
We are haters of gloom, we are lovers of fun,
And we flood the wide world with our mirth.
When they see us, the little birds sing,
And their petals the flowers unfold;
Warmth, colour, and beauty are gifts that we bring,
And health to the young and the old.
Without us no leaves could be green,
No fruits could grow ripe on the bough;
We do all your cooking; in fires we are seen,
Like the one that I quitted just now.
Helen was delighted with the song. She clapped her hands enthusiastically.
"And what is your name, if I may make so bold?" she asked politely, if somewhat breathlessly.
"I haven't one, but I know yours, for I heard you talking to yourself while I was in the fire. It is Helen—a very pretty name."
"How could you know if you were shut up in the coal?" asked Helen, quickly.
The little man smiled. "Sunbeams can talk to one another even through prison walls. I know all that has happened since I was shut up in my cell. I could even see beyond it. But you will not understand, not for a long, long while."
"Do you mind if I give you a name?" asked Helen. "Then we can talk more freely."
"At your service, Helen!" replied the little man with a friendly smile, accompanied by another graceful bow.
"Then I shall call you Whirlaway, if that suits you. Because, you know, you did whirl when you came out of the fire."
"Excellent! Excellent! I am indeed honoured," he exclaimed delightedly. He sprang to the big book, almost as big as himself, threw it open with a mighty effort, and gazed at the pictured monster with the long, long tail. "Ah ha! Here's an old friend of mine. I knew him," he asserted, somewhat proudly.
"But how could you?" inquired Helen with a puzzled frown.
"I thought he was only a make-believe, a sort of a never-was," she finished hurriedly.
"What, what!" said the little man somewhat testily. "Do you know so little of the past? I see I shall have to teach you many things, Helen."
At this point Tirri sleepily opened his eyes and sat up on the hearth-rug. He yawned and blinked unbelievingly at the gay-looking stranger. "Tirri, you old sleepy-head," said Helen, "we have a visitor. Let me introduce you to my new friend, Mr. Whirlaway. Whirlaway, Tirri; Tirri, Whirlaway."
Whirlaway, who had recovered his poise, bowed politely to Tirri.
"Ah, yes, a koala," he said; "I know all the animals past and present. But koalas are not very fond of Sunbeams; they sleep when we are most active." As if to confirm his words, Tirri rather rudely yawned again, and once more buried his nose in his fur.
"But tell me, Whirlaway," said Helen, "did those animals shown in the book really live?"
"Of course they did. And where did you find the book?"
"Come with me and I'll show you. Come on, Tirri. Let's go and see the cellar." And, picking Tirri up, she perched him on her shoulder, with the gum leaves still clasped in his paw, and led the way to the cellar. Under her arm she had gathered the book and the keys. The cellar was no longer so dark, for the little man shone like a firefly or a glow-worm, and Helen could see things much more clearly than before.
"I don't see any more books," said Whirlaway.
"No," said Helen; "that was the only one I could find in the cellar. There's this big box, but it holds nothing but stones."
Whirlaway did not even look at the box, he was too busy inspecting the floor. "Whither does this door lead?" he called in eager tones.
"Door?" cried Helen, just as eagerly. "I can't see a door."
"Here, right at my feet!" he exclaimed, pointing to a ring in a trap-door on the cellar floor.
"Oh, so it is! I wonder why I didn't see it before," she said. Placing Tirri on the box, she knelt over the door he had indicated. "Help me, Whirlaway."
Helen and Whirlaway pulled at the ring with all their might. Slowly it began to move, and gradually it lifted, revealing a metal door.
"Hidden treasure here," cried Helen, clapping her hands in her excitement.
Whirlaway did not reply; he was far too busy pushing first this way and then that, when suddenly, as if he had pressed a secret button, it slid back, revealing an iron ladder leading to the darkness below.
Calling to Helen to follow him, Whirlaway went swiftly down the stairs. Helen, after some hesitation, made haste to go after him. She had forgotten Tirri, but the faithful koala had followed her, still holding his gum leaves.
As soon as Helen reached the bottom of the stairs a bright glow suffused the small room in which she found herself. At the same time a metallic click overhead indicated that the trap-door had shut to above them.
"Oh, what are we to do?" cried Helen, looking up in alarm. At her words Whirlaway went quickly up the steps again and pushed at the door, but it would not yield. "We are locked in, and nobody can hear us," she continued.
"Don't be afraid," said Whirlaway, in a confident manner; "we shall find some way out."
Helen, a little easier at the thought, looked round the room and caught sight of a large clock. It was a strange clock for it had only one hand.
"Oh, Whirlaway, do look at this," she cried. The face was numbered from one to ten, with a hundred little dots between each pair of numbers. Stranger still, the numbers ran the wrong way. It was a one-handed, back-to-front kind of clock. "Listen," said Helen; "it is not ticking; and what's that strange word to which the hand is pointing?" She spelled it out letter by letter—H-O-L-O-C-E-N-E.
"It means wholly recent, all new," replied Whirlaway, "and refers to the period of time in which life was practically the same as it is to-day. The different periods in the earth's history are reckoned by millions of years."
"Thank you," she said thoughtfully, and she remembered something she had read in the Bible: "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as a day."
Then she caught a glimpse of something else. It was a lever projecting from the wall, a long lever such as a railway signalman uses when he stands in his signal-box. "I'll pull it and see what happens," said Helen. "Perhaps it will open the metal door." She pulled with all her might. Immediately a bright light flashed on, and a grinding noise was heard.
"That's strange," said Whirlaway, who was examining the room with a great deal of interest. "Push it back again." When she pushed it back the light went out, and the grinding noise stopped. When she pulled it forward again the light came on and the grinding noise began again.
All this time Tirri had been steadily munching away at his gum leaves, which somehow never seemed to grow less, his little black beady eyes watching every movement of his beloved young mistress. He was not afraid—his mistress was there, that was enough for a koala!
Helen looked carefully at the wall, and there she saw four press-buttons—one green, one yellow, one red, and the remaining one black. Near each button was printed a name that was strange to her.
Helen was now ready for any adventure. She had lost her fear of being locked in. "I'll press a button," she said. "Perhaps a genie will appear, as one did to Aladdin." She chose the red button. As soon as she pressed it a whir-r-r came from beneath the floor.
"Ooh!" she gasped, clutching at Tirri for comfort. "We're sinking! I know we are! Can't you feel it, Whirlaway? The whole room is going down like a lift. I know it is because I have that funny 'lifty' feeling right inside me! Don't you feel the same, Whirlaway?" Helen's voice rose in alarm, and poor Tirri almost dropped his gum leaves; but down, down they went—down! down!
"Happy the man whose lot it is to know
The secrets of the earth."
When Helen had recovered a little from the startling descent she grew alarmed. "Oh, what have I done, Whirlaway? What have I done?"
"Done?" said Whirlaway, pretending to be surprised. "Why, Helen, you've done everything that you shouldn't do. You pressed the button because, like lots of other little girls, you can't help meddling with things you know nothing about. But then you've only twelve years' wisdom, poor child."
"And you have a hundred million," thought Helen, who kept silent under the rebuke. She said nothing, however, for she was beginning to have great respect for the little man, and besides, he seemed to know everything, and he wasn't looking frightened.
"I'll show him," she murmured in Tirri's funny, furry ear; "I'll show him that, even if I am only twelve, we're not afraid, are we, Tirri?" Tirri, as if in reply, snuggled closer to Helen.
"Where are we going now, Whirlaway?" she asked him.
"If you had studied your book instead of merely glancing at the pictures you would have known. Turn to page 3."
Kneeling down, Helen placed Tirri on the floor, opened the book, and, turning to page 3, she saw on it a drawing of a clock like the one in the lift. Round it were printed the strange names she had seen opposite the buttons.
"What funny names!" she exclaimed.
"Read them out," said Whirlaway.
"I'll try," replied Helen. She spelled out C-A-I-N-O-Z-O-I-C: "CAINO—CAINO," she stumbled.
"Go on," encouraged Whirlaway. "Try to pronounce it. Wherever you find a long word, break it up into syllables. So try it, Helen; you must learn these words."
Helen wrinkled her forehead, scratched her nose, and, drawing a deep breath, started afresh.
"CAIN, CAIN; O-O, ZO, I-C, IC. CAIN-O-ZO-IC," she exclaimed triumphantly, with a gleam in her twinkling eyes. "CAIN-O-ZO-IC, there you are, Whirlaway!"
"Good—that's the idea," he replied. "Keep it up."
So Helen proceeded to spell out the next words, and breaking them up into syllables, she soon mastered them.
Green—CAIN-O-ZO-IC (age of mammal life).
Yellow—MES-O-ZO-IC (age of reptile life).
Red—PAL-AE-O-ZO-IC (age of fishes).
Black—ARCH-AE-O-ZO-IC (cradle of life).
Suddenly glancing up at the clock, Helen saw that its one hand was moving backwards. "What does it all mean?" she asked breathlessly.
"Don't you understand?" Whirlaway answered. "We are in a lift, which is taking us down through the ages. With these keys we shall be able to unlock the doors to the different ages and learn their secrets. You shall see what the earth was like, you shall see the kinds of animals that lived, and how they lived, millions of years ago."
"Millions of years! Millions, you say, Whirlaway? Why, a year often seems a long time to me, but a million years—why, it seems like a—like a—"
"Million years!" slyly suggested Whirlaway.
This radiant little gentleman seemed to be full of good spirits, for, as they went down, Whirlaway sang softly in his sweet little voice a strange, happy song which Helen did not understand, though she remembered it and thought over it long afterwards:
O Earth, unwind thy coils!
O Time, reverse thy flight!
What used to be
Let Helen see
With wonder and delight.
The pageant of the past
For Helen's sake unroll,
That she may know
How all things flow,
Unhasting, towards their goal.
Teach her to conquer fear!
No creature of the dust,
No beast nor man
Can change the plan
Ordained, in which we trust.
Helen was at the same time excited, pleased, and alarmed at the prospect before her. "Millions of years," she thought, "Millions!" She felt now how fully she must trust the little man, who seemed to have all the knowledge of all the ages.
"Dear Mr. Whirlaway," she said, "I feel so excited, but I want to tell you something before we see all these wonders. So please don't unlock any doors until you have heard me. I feel that you are much older and wiser than I, and that I want you to be my teacher; but not like the teacher of our class at school, Miss Noall, who has read so many books that she talks like a book and looks like a book. And oh, she can be so dry, drier than dust, drier than ashes!" She heaved a sigh at the thought of it. "When she drones on we sit very quiet and pretend to be listening, and half the time we do not know a word she is saying. I know I think of Father and Mother and Tirri and new shoes and holidays while I should be thinking of history and geography.
"Dear Mr. Whirlaway," she continued earnestly, "be patient with me. Don't lose your temper if I ask questions, even silly questions. Try to tell me things easily and brightly. I want to know the Earth's story. I want to see everything I can see; but, please, Mr. Whirlaway, when you explain things to me don't be dry like poor Miss Noall."
"I shall do my best, my dear," said Whirlaway gravely. "Learning is a slow process, but it need never be dull or wearisome. I, who have lived millions of years, have been learning all the time and yet have much to learn. But it has been all enjoyment. So stop me whenever you don't quite understand. A dull Sunbeam would be a very unworthy member of the family. Ask all the questions you wish to ask. And don't imagine I know everything. It has taken me millions of years to find out how really little I know compared to what there is to know of God's universe. So cheer up, Helen," he continued with a smile. "There are tasty crumbs of knowledge ahead of you. And now we'll not talk any more of ourselves, but keep our eyes and our minds open. What say you, Mr. Tirri?"
Tirri opened and blinked his eyes, nodded sleepily, and, purely from force of habit, bit a gum leaf.
"We are not going to the Land of Make-Believe, are we, Whirlaway?" excitedly asked Helen as the lift continued on its downward course.
"Not at all," he replied. "You will see for yourself what actually did take place, and in what order the fishes, reptiles, and birds appeared on the earth."
Still the lift went deeper. Helen asked: "Are we going to where it is all marked black on the dial of that funny clock thing?"
"No," he said. "We shall stop at the red section marked 'Cambrian.' That was a period of about six hundred million years ago. But while we are getting there, I shall tell you what happened on the earth earlier than that."
"Earlier than that!" breathed Helen. "Earlier than six hundred million years ago! Goodness gracious me!
"Yes, even earlier than that, Helen." Whirlaway smiled to himself at her breathless eagerness.
"The black section marked Archaeozoic (which means belonging to the earliest period of geological history—the English word is formed from two Greek words: ARCHE, the beginning; and ZOE, life)—I say the black section marked Archaeozoic represents a time when the earth was a place of mighty mountains, with bare rocky slopes. Great volcanoes belched forth steam and molten rock, streams of lava ran down the mountain-sides, and the earth trembled with almost continuous earthquakes. Later, the crust of the Earth collapsed in places where the strain became too great, and formed large basins in which water collected, making the great oceans."
"Ugh!" said Helen, "I should not like to have lived in the Arch-a—Arch-ae-o-zo-ic era," she finished with a rush.
Just then the lift began to slow down, and the word CAMBRIAN shone out on the dial in red letters.
"What does 'Cambrian' mean?" asked Helen. "Has it anything to do with Wales. One of father's friends (Mr. Llewelyn) is a Welshman, but he told me once that he was a Cambrian, and he's certainly not millions of years old!"
Her companion smiled. "Cambrian does mean belonging to Wales," he said. "But it is also the name of an early period in geological history. An English scholar gave the name Cambrian to that period because some of the rocks in the mountains of Wales were formed at that time."
All the time the lift was getting slower and slower, and, as the hand pointed to 6, indicating six hundred million years, it stopped. Helen jumped to her feet, her eyes shining with suppressed excitement. "How are we to get out?" she cried.
"Let us try the lever again," suggested Whirlaway.
So, taking hold of the lever, they both pulled with all their might. The searchlight flashed, and the grinding noise explained itself. To Helen's astonishment, half the inner wall of the lift slid back, exposing an outer one of glass. A view of surpassing beauty was disclosed. They were at the Cambrian Sea, and it was teeming with life. All kinds of strange swimming and crawling things were to be seen among the waving sea-lilies.
"Oh," gasped Helen breathlessly, "is this Fairyland?"
"It does look like it; but those floating objects you see are real, although they are so very beautiful," replied Whirlaway calmly.
"What are they?"
"Listen, my dear, I'll tell you about them one by one."
"I am listening."
"Well, to begin with, the most lovely things of all are too tiny to see. Floating about in the water before you are millions of small things about the size of a pin's head. Some, the most beautiful of all to my mind, look like fairy lanterns. Shaped just like balloons, they glow and are transparent."
"Oh, how beautiful! Go on, Whirlaway. I can imagine them all."
"Well, there are others that look like the Catherine wheels that we have on the King's Birthday, but they don't whirl round and round. Others are like perfect little crystal jugs, complete with handle and all; and others again shine like brilliants."
"Oh, I do wish I could see them all."
"Now look down on the bed of the sea. Can you see in the mud there are some creatures with tiny legs that come out of the sides of their bodies?"
"Yes, I can see them. Some of them are nearly buried in the mud."
"Exactly—that was their trouble. The light never reaches them, so they have no need for eyes."
"Then how do they see what they are to eat?"
Whirlaway chuckled; he had expected this.
"Clever little girl! They do not see, but they manage quite well for all that. To chew they have to move; so, when they move, they chew!"
This remark of Whirlaway's seemed to amuse Helen. She repeated it in sing-song fashion—"To chew they have to move, and, when they move, they chew-oo-oo." She laughed aloud and burst into a gay little song:
You move to chew;
You do, you do!
Your actions prove—
To chew you move.
But I can eat
And keep my seat.
Unless to prove
I choose to move.
I can't feel sad—
In fact, I'm glad
Not I, but you
Must move to chew.
And yet I'm sorrowful to find
You know no better, being blind.
Becoming grave and sensible again, she asked: "What are they called?"
"Trilobites," was the answer. "Tri means three, and lobes, you know, are rounded projections, like the lobes of your ears."
"My goodness me! I thought you were going to say that is how they chewed—that they took three bites!"
"Don't interrupt. If you would only wait until I have finished you would understand. It means that they are composed of three sections—a head, body, and a tail."
"Oh," said Helen meekly, still humming her foolish little 'I do' song quietly to herself. "I see—I see—I see—I truly see!"
"You have seen sponges and jellyfish, I suppose?" said Whirlaway, interrupting her a trifle impatiently.
"Oh, yes, heaps of times. Are there any here?"
"Very many! Look, they are floating past."
After the jellyfish and sponges had drifted by them, Helen caught sight of some little bud-shaped things growing from the bed of the sea.
"Do cactus plants grow in the sea?" she asked Whirlaway.
"No, those you see are called cystids, and the prickles they have are to protect them."
"What is that lovely plant there, with the sea-snail climbing up its stalk?" she asked.
Whirlaway had to think hard, not because he did not know all about the plant, but because he wanted to be sure he could make Helen understand what it was.
"Well," he said slowly, "it is not exactly a plant, although it is known as a sea-lily. As a matter of fact, it is really an animal, and it sweeps its food into its mouth with those long, feeler-like arms. There is one having dinner now."
That idea would never have dawned on Helen, and it made her laugh again. "I thought it was waving to me, and I felt as if I should wave back."
"It would be flattered to hear you say that. At first the stalks of the sea-lilies were so short that their arms swept much mud into their mouths, and they had a good deal of trouble with their diet."
"So they grew taller to keep their mouths out of the mud?" Helen queried.
"Yes, something seemed to tell them, though they had no apparent brain, that they must adapt themselves to their surroundings in order to live and progress," said the Sunbeam thoughtfully. "The sea-lily keeps on growing till the head is many feet above the mud of the ocean, and then, having no further use for the stalk, it detaches itself and floats away. As a matter of fact, the starfish you find on the beach in your modern times is a very distant relation of the floating head of a sea-lily."
"I say, Mr. Whirlaway, when I get back to Lyell Lodge, and go down to the beach, shall I be able to find any of the Cambrian creatures I can see here now, besides sponges and jellyfish?" asked Helen.
"Well, most of the things you see here now go through so many changes that I am afraid you would not recognize them; but the little shell-fish called Lingula has developed, even at this early stage, a shell so perfect for its purpose in life that it will have no reason to alter its ways. Its descendants will live through all the millions of years with little change."
Helen thought to herself that she must try to find a lingula to add to her collection of shells.
"Down there," Whirlaway continued, "are many trilobites, some of them more than twelve inches long, and the wonderful little animals also that make the beautiful coral are working very hard building their tiny, single, cup-shaped houses, which are very different from the great coral reefs they will build later."
During this rather long speech of Mr. Whirlaway, Helen began to show some signs of impatience, and at last she said: "I think these are all very interesting, Mr. Whirlaway, but I do really want to see the huge animals you told me about."
"Well, then, let us get out of this lift."
"But we are locked in," cried Helen, suddenly remembering that the door had closed when they entered the lift.
"Ah, that is a problem," said Whirlaway, pondering.
So they both seated themselves on the book and thought hard. Suddenly Whirlaway jumped to his feet. "I have it," he exclaimed. "You remember when we stepped into this life from the cellar? I came first; but it was not until you came down that the light flashed on, and then the door at the top closed."
Helen quickly grasped his meaning. "Yes, I understand. What you mean is that as long as there is some one in the lift the weight makes the light stay on and the door remains shut."
"That's right. I am not heavy enough to work it."
In a flash Helen was racing up the steps. Immediately her feet were off the floor of the lift the light went out and the door above slowly opened. But they were not in darkness, because the other light that shone when she pulled the lever was still glowing. On getting out of the lift Helen found herself in a cave-like passage, so she called Whirlaway.
"Come on, Mr. Whirlaway. It's all right—I can see—it's not a bit dark, really."
He gathered up the bunch of coloured keys and climbed up the steps to the door at the top. Tirri was not going to be left out of anything, so he scampered up the steps. He was out through the door as quickly as any other koala could go. Through the dim passage they all went, keeping close together. At the far end was a ladder.
"Hallo! what's this?" said Whirlaway.
"It looks like the ladder the gardener uses at home," replied Helen. "It is a ladder," she exclaimed a second later. "Shall we have to climb it?"
"Why, certainly," answered Whirlaway. "I'll carry Tirri, so up you go!"
Helen couldn't help smiling. She just wouldn't keep still. "I don't want to be rude, Whirlaway, but I think Tirri might carry you," she said.
Whirlaway laughed. "Well, he is rather big, isn't he? Perhaps you'd better, my dear." So Helen lifted Tirri, still clutching his bunch of leaves. Up they all climbed. Helen went first, and, when Whirlaway reached the opening, he saw through the dim light Helen closely examining an odd-looking rounded stone with "ONE HUNDRED MILLION YEARS TO ORDOVICIAN" engraved on it.
"What is this funny-looking stone for, Whirlaway?"
"That is a year-stone," he replied.
"Year-stone? I have heard of milestones before, and date-stones and cherry-stones, but this is the first time I've heard of YEAR-STONES."
"We shall see many of them as we wander through the ages. Each age has been divided by geologists into periods, and the year-stones are to give you some idea how long the different periods lasted."
"Then the Cambrian lasted one hundred million years?"
"Yes, and Ordovician, which you see written on the year-stone, is the name of the next period. We shall come to all the rest on our way back up through the different strata to Lyell Lodge."
"But look! There's a door," cried Helen, "and it has 'Cambrian' above it. Oh, it is locked," she added as she impetuously tried to open it.
"Here are the keys," said Whirlaway triumphantly—"the coloured keys—the keys of the ages. The red one will unlock it."
"Brrr! What a dark passage!" cried Helen with a shiver as the door opened. "Where is Tirri? He's disappeared."
"I'll hold to your skirt so that we can keep close to each other," said Whirlaway. "He can't be far away. We'll soon find him" Which was true, for the next minute Tirri came back to Helen, still clutching his gum leaves. She picked him up with a sigh of relief and cuddled him into her shoulder. "Naughty Tirri! Don't you do that again," she scolded affectionately.
Helen walked on through the cold stone passage, but suddenly stopped. "Listen, Whirlaway. Footsteps! Who's coming?" she called in a frightened voice.
"Away! Footsteps! Who's coming?" came back the mocking answer.
Helen was puzzled, and was a little annoyed at Whirlaway, who was laughing. She showed her vexation. "Well, I don't see anything funny in that."
"Well, I don't see anything funny in that," she heard repeated.
"I don't know who they are, but they are very rude to mimic what I say."
"What I say," said the mysterious voice.
"How much longer are you going on talking to yourself?" asked Whirlaway. "That's only an echo. Remember, there is no human being living in this period."
"Why, I never thought of that."
Coming to the end of the cave-like passage, Helen peeped out on the most forlorn place she had ever seen.
Thunder boomed among the hard, bare-looking hills, and lightning flashed and streaked its way across the sky. A fierce wind blew so hard that she had to screw up her eyes as she gazed on the scene before her.
"Don't come out or you'll be blown away," she cried. "Or drowned," she added, as the rain began to teem down, swelling the wide, rushing rivers in raging torrents.
They remained sheltering in the cave, which they could now see opened to the seashore.
Helen shuddered. "Ugh! what an awful-looking place this is! There isn't a sign of anything living, not even a tree or a blade of grass."
"Well, that is just the impression you should get, for now you will be able to see, as we go on, how things developed. So let us hurry."
"But you will be blown away, won't you?"
"Not if we walk along under the shelter of the rocks. Come on, let us keep close to each other."
So off they hurried, running until they were breathless, and then, after resting for a little, they started again. They found it hard to breathe for the air was thick and heavy; but at last there came a change. The hills were covered with snow, and the wide and once rushing rivers were frozen hard and still with ice.
There was as yet no sign of life at all on the land.
On they tramped through the snow, and, because they hurried, they kept warm. Whirlaway, glancing up at Helen now and again, could not help chuckling. Her rosy cheeks looked as if they had been polished, and her eyes shone brightly. But it was her little nose that made him laugh so much. It looked like a wee red blob.
Tirri perhaps felt the cold the least as he snuggled up as close as he could to Helen's shoulder. She in turn felt comforted from the feel of his warm soft fur. Soon they saw in the side of a cliff a large door. Whirlaway told Helen that it was the entrance to the next period.
"It was a sunless strand that never bore
The footprints of a man."
On reaching the door, Helen read ORDOVICIAN above it, and, on looking at the year-stone, she saw FIFTY MILLION YEARS TO SILURIAN.
"What does that big word OR-OR-D-O-DO ORDO-VICIAN mean?" asked Helen.
"Well!" answered Whirlaway, "the Romans called the Celtic people in Wales Ordovices, so the name is akin to Cambrian. The Ordovician follows the Cambrian in time, and is itself succeeded by the Silurian. The Silures were a Celtic people inhabiting South Wales; that's what the Romans called them. Now then, the three periods—Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian—make up what is sometimes called the Age of the Invertebrates, or backboneless creatures. It's fine to have a backbone, isn't it? But it has taken millions of years to grow one. So be careful of yours, Helen, it's a wonderful legacy from the dim past."
"Backbone," said Helen, straightening herself and addressing her vertebral column, "you're a legacy. Remember that, and stand upright! No wobbling!"
Somehow this thought proved irresistible to Helen—she just had to make a song about it.
Be upright, little backbone!
Be straight as you can be,
Because, my precious backbone,
You are a lega-cee.
She carolled gaily:
You are a lega-cee!
Using the red key, Whirlaway unlocked the door. When they pushed it open they found that the temperature, though still on the cool side, was much better, and the air was much clearer than in the Cambrian section, but still far from pleasant.
Before them stretched a shore-line flat and uninteresting. The water was dark and motionless, without tide or current. Black mud was there instead of sand, and evil-smelling beds of seaweed were piled up in heaps along the sea's edge. They looked across the silent, sleeping bay, and in the distance saw some low islands.
"Ugh! this gives me the creeps!" exclaimed Helen. "What a dead, dreary place!"
"Yes," answered Whirlaway; "very few creatures could live in that stagnant water, it is Nature's graveyard. There are some strange animals here that men later found as fossils and have called graptolites. The word graptolite means a stone with an impression on it like that made by an old-fashioned quill pen. If you were to see one closely in its living state you would find that it was long and thin and jagged, like a keyhole saw. You'll find a picture of graptolites in that wonderful book of yours, and some day you may see fossil graptolites in a museum."
"You mean I'll see the saw," said Helen flippantly. "Sounds like 'I saw Esau.'
"Puns are poor things," answered Whirlaway severely. "The graptolites and the few shells you can observe belong to animals of the open sea."
"If they belong to the open sea, what are they doing here?" asked Helen quickly.
"Storms have washed them up in the same way as the seaweed. But storms are very rare, and in these enclosed bays not very severe. Have you ever used a slate at school, Helen?"
"Yes, when I was very little. Why?"
"Because it was in Ordovician times that the black mud formed the beds from which, at a very much later period, the slates were quarried."
"Goodness me! How very remarkable!" said Helen. "I suppose I must bow when I see slates on a roof, to show I really respect old age."
"Certainly," answered Whirlaway.
Soon the low monotonous shore-line was succeeded by one more interesting. As they came round a bend, Whirlaway pointed to clouds of steam in the distance.
"Whatever can those be?" asked Helen.
"They are active volcanoes," replied Whirlaway, "and they are discharging molten lava. If we were nearer, you would see it flowing in rivers down the mountain-sides. The Ordovician Period has terrible upheavals. We should be wise to keep near the shore."
Gradually the beach changed its aspect. The waves thundered as the incoming tide hurled them on the shore, but that was the only sound. There were no sea-birds crying out and skimming over the water, only rocks, sand, and huge shells.
"Oh, this is like the beach at home!" cried Helen, racing down to the sand. But, suddenly clutching Tirri tightly, she screamed in horror, for at her feet was an enormous shell-fish, waving monstrous snake-like arms towards her.
"Keep out of its reach!" called Whirlaway. "It is an Orthoceras. But notice the shape of it, like a long, straight horn. That's how it got its name, Straight Horn. It's a horrible creature, devouring everything that its tentacles touch. That one must be quite six feet long. If it is lucky, it will be washed back into the sea when the tide turns. The earliest shells were straight; the coiled ones came later."
"O Whirlaway," breathlessly exclaimed Helen, "my heart's beating like a big drum; I hope we won't get many shocks like that."
"Don't worry," replied Whirlaway, "if you follow my advice you won't get hurt when you see these queer things."
"I hope not," she said, somewhat unsteadily; "but go on. You just tell me things and ask questions."
So he told her that many of the little animals that they had seen from the lift in the Cambrian section had their descendants living in the water close by. But their mode of life had improved. "The graceful sea-lilies that you thought were waving to you have grown more beautiful and much bigger; and the sponges, too, are larger. Coral is here, and the coral creatures are just beginning to think about reef-building. You remember, Helen, that the trilobites—the three-lobed things—you saw were blind, but their descendants have eyes and can see now."
"That's wonderful," said Helen; "but how did they get their sight?"
"Well," replied Whirlaway, "they were living in darkness because no light came through to their ocean bed; but now light has penetrated the water and excited their optic nerves. Don't you remember in your big book those verses that told you how the trilobite got his eyes?" And he began to sing softly:
SONG OF THE TRILOBITE
For ages coiled on the ocean floor,
The Trilobite in silence bore
The desolation of his plight—
It seemed he was doomed to an endless night.
All was darkness, and blind was he;
He could not hear, and he could not see.
A faint light fell on his optic nerve,
What useful purpose could it serve?
"That's odd," thought he; "my rest is gone;
I've a headache in my cephalon
And a tingling where my eyes should be.
I almost believe I'm about to SEE!"
And he strained his eyes in his dim abode
Till their fifteen thousand facets glowed,
And the pain in his cephalon took flight,
And his three lobes trembled with sheer delight.
His darkness was over; he'd power to see,
So he handed it on to his progeny.
"Yes, I saw it in the book, but I didn't think it so good till I heard you sing it," said Helen. "How real you made it!"
Whirlaway looked rather embarrassed at Helen's praise, and to save his blushes said: "Doesn't the sea look nice, Helen?"
"Yes, almost good enough to bathe in," she replied. Suiting the action to her words, Helen took off her shoes and stockings, and, with Tirri close beside her, she walked along the shore.
"Watch for the Orthoceras," warned Whirlaway.
"I'll take care—one look at him was enough, but—" she broke off delightedly. "Oh look, Whirlaway, at what I have found. What is the name of it?"
"A nautiloid shell, and in a later period we shall see the Pearly Nautilus, so called after the Greek word nautilos, a sailor, because it is supposed to sail its ship over the sea. The shell is lined with mother-of-pearl, and is a wonderful citadel, the most perfect and beautiful in the world. In it, rocked by the waves, is the little baby nautilus. As it grows and grows, it adds larger rooms to its little home, moving from one to another. 'Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,'"
"I know that," cried Helen; "it's by Wendell Holmes; we learned it at school."
"The nautilus," continued Whirlaway, "has a small trap-door, which it can close when danger approaches. All the rooms are connected by a spiral tube and are filled with a light gas, which enables the nautilus to float more freely at the bottom of the sea."
"Gas and electricity laid on," said Helen; "like a house."
"Exactly. Now put on your shoes, Helen, and pick up Tirri. We may see the next door at any turn in the cliffs."
So Helen sat down and pulled on her stockings and shoes, and then, picking up Tirri, she set off again.
The next turn proved the correctness of Whirlaway's surmise, for suddenly Helen cried out:
"And there is the door. For once my modern eyes have beaten your ancient ones. Now I'll race you to it—modern legs against ancient legs."
And off she set at full speed, and, with the aid of her long legs, she was able to reach the next year-stone at least two minutes ahead of Whirlaway.
"The triumphal arch through which I march,
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow."
"Now, that's a simpler word," said Helen, gazing at the door. "Silurian, Silurian; it comes trippingly off the tongue."
"Did you notice the year-stone?" asked Whirlaway.
"Of course," was the reply. "You're making me so clever that I miss nothing. It says FIFTY MILLION YEARS TO DEVONIAN. Dear, oh dear!"
"Yes, fifty million years—quite a long time to you, isn't it?" said Whirlaway, as he turned the red key in the door and swung it back on its hinges. "There you are, Helen. What do you think of that?"
Helen clapped her hands in delight, for across the sky stretched a beautiful rainbow.
"This is much better than the Ordovician, isn't it?" remarked Whirlaway as he saw the happy look on Helen's face. Even Tirri seemed to feel the difference. "If we go down to the seashore we shall now find abundance of life."
"Yes, but what kind of life?" cried Helen in alarm. "Look what is coming out of the sea. Oh, it's worse than a nightmare!"
"Keep well out of its way," Whirlaway warned her, "and beware of its poisonous sting. It's a scorpion, one of the very first animals to leave the water for the land."
"I wish he had stopped in the sea," said Helen with a shudder. "But, if he lives in the sea, how can he live on the land as well?"
"Because he has lungs as well as gills, just like the little lung-fish we'll meet later on. He can breathe with his lungs or his gills as he chooses."
"What an ugly thing it is, and what a size! Why, it must be nine feet long—bigger than Daddy!" she remarked.
When they got to the low, swampy shore, Helen noticed that Whirlaway kept peering down as if he expected to find something interesting. "Here it is," he said; "one of the very first land-plants. It is amphibious, that is, it can live and breathe in air or water."
"Just like that horrible scorpion," observed Helen, "but it looks much nicer."
The graceful sea-lilies that Helen remembered so well and had admired so much were there also in large numbers. Some of them went down forty feet into the mud below.
"They have become more and more wonderful," said Helen. "What lovely plants!"
"They are not plants; they are really animals," answered Whirlaway. "As I told you before, with some of the later ones, when they reach a certain stage in their growth, the portion with the waving arms and the mouth breaks off and is free to crawl about in search of food. See, here is the feathered starfish."
"But what's that thing beside it?" cried Helen excitedly.
"That is a shark," Whirlaway told her, "the very first fish to swim in the sea. Sharks grow a good deal, and their tails alter, otherwise they remain nearly the same through the ages. The shark has no proper backbone, he did not develop one."
Presently, on coming to a sandy beach, Helen put Tirri down, for she had noticed some fan-shaped shells. "What are those?" she asked.
"They are called lamp-shells," answered Whirlaway, "and they now have a hinge. You will see them in many different shapes and sizes on this beach for they are very plentiful."
"I'm so glad there are none of those long, straight shells with the serpent tongues," said Helen.
"No, there are very few straight shells now; most of them have coiled to cope with the buffeting of the currents and breakers," he answered.
The trilobites that Helen saw were now much larger, some of them over a foot in length. Somehow she loved the little creatures that moved as they chewed. There were also odd-looking, spiky-tailed crabs in the shallow water with shields on their heads. Whirlaway told her they were the first king crabs.
"Now let us hurry on to see all the other things, for we have many wonderful places to visit," he urged.
So on they went, over the cliffs and across the land, till they came to a lagoon. Helen suddenly stood still and watched. Something moved on the muddy bank, so they crept down to see what it was and found the funniest little creature imaginable.
"Oh, what is it?" whispered Helen.
"It's the lung-fish I told you about. He can breathe either in air or in water."
"But how did he come to get lungs?" asked Helen.
"Well, it may have been this way," answered her companion,
and he began to sing in his piping little voice:
SONG OF THE LUNG-FISH
I shall sing, with your permission,
Of a fish that had ambition,
One whose only aspiration
Was to rise above his station.
In his watery world he wearied:
"Ah! what lies beyond?" he queried.
Every day his head upreared he
To the air, and nothing feared he.
Though he seemed to court disaster
And his pulse beat faster and faster,
In his breast he felt a stirring
As of something strange occurring.
Tell how makeshift lungs were fashioned,
How he broke his aqueous tether
When he'd gills and lungs together,
Sought the shoreline, wriggled, panted,
Knew his darling wish was granted.
Finding better breathing daily,
To his tribe he whispered gaily,
"Learn of me by imitation;
Learn to rise above your station."
And, thereafter, many young fish
Were by birth and breeding—Lung-fish.
"That was clever of him," said Helen. "But what a funny face he has! It makes me laugh. See the comical way he puts his head on one side and stares at me. Look!" Helen was highly amused. "I do believe he's winking. You bold thing!"
The tiny creature closed one of its bulging eyes.
Just at that moment up shot the head of one of its mates from the water. As it rose, its great eyes seemed to be popping out of their sockets, and tears streamed down to wash away any mud that might hinder its sight.
This was too much for Helen, who burst into a merry peal of laughter that made the echoes ring. The lung-fish, as if offended, slid softly back again into the water and disappeared.
"Why did you frighten it?" asked Whirlaway, annoyed.
"I know," answered Helen, ruefully; "but I couldn't help it. I just had to laugh. I had never seen such a comical face. And the way his bulging eyes popped out! I'll never forget it as long as I live."
So Helen picked up Tirri, and, with a cheery, "Come along, Whirlaway, let's look for the next door," set off with a hop, skip, and jump that made little Whirlaway's legs positively twinkle.
"D-E-V-O-N-I-A-N," said Helen as she spelled out the word above the door. "Why, Dad's a Devonian; he was born in Devon, and went to school there. That's where they make the cider. Is there any cider here?"
"No, there are no apple trees, and there will be none for millions of years," said Whirlaway.
"Look, Whirlaway, this stone says ONE HUNDRED MILLION YEARS to—to—er—"
"Try to pronounce it, Helen. Always break it up into syllables, as I told you."
"CAR-BON-IF-ER-OUS," she spelled out. "Carboniferous—there!"
"Good for you, Helen! Carboniferous it is."
As the door swung open Helen gazed in wonder, for before them seemed to stretch nothing but swamps and lagoons, in which grew peculiar-looking trees, not at all like the trees Helen had known in her own sunny world, where leaves grew green, and sweet birds sang, and bright blossoms flowered, and glowing fruits ripened. These giant mosses and tufted things that she could see seemed to her to have neither colour nor beauty.
The air was warm, and Whirlaway said that it would keep its warmth for millions of years without much change. Even the water in the lagoon was warm.
Whirlaway explained that there would be no long winters as the seasons came and went.
"I won't mind," said Helen, "for I like the warm weather; but I don't like all these swamps, and I'll still have to carry Tirri."
"Yes," said Whirlaway, "but let us pick our way carefully along the high ground."
"Where are the hills?" asked Helen.
"The hills," he replied, "have been worn down by the action of frost and rain, but very, very gradually. Millions of tons of soil, which was high up on the slopes, are washed down every year by the rain to the sea. You can understand that, in the course of ages, the hills disappear and the country becomes level until further mountains are formed."
"But how can mountains be formed?" inquired Helen.
"In this way," answered Whirlaway. "The crust of the earth is raised up by disturbances below, and thus mountain-chains and hills are formed. You might think that mountains are changeless; but, as one of your poets truly says:"
"The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mists, the solid lands;
Like clouds they shape themselves and go."
"I've read that somewhere," said Helen; "I think it is from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam.'"
" Have you ever seen shells on top of a mountain far out in the country?" he asked.
"Yes," said Helen, "and I often wondered how they got there."
"I'll tell you," replied Whirlaway. "Once upon a time that land was under water. Through disturbances the sea-bed was pushed up and the shells with it. Thus what was once the bottom of the sea became dry land."
As they picked their way around the lagoons and swamps they came across some of the very earliest trees. Many of these had the shape of an ostrich feather, with a strong central stem, others had long, slender, reed-like stems with little tufts of leaves coming from their jointed stalks.
Helen showed them to Tirri, but he was not in the least interested. He still preferred his gum leaves.
"What are they called, Whirlaway?"
"The ones with the plume are called horse-tails."
"Oh, because of the funny little tufty tail at the top," said Helen. "And what is the name of the queer, mossy-looking ones growing beside them?"
"They are called club-mosses, from their clubby appearance. But look quickly into the water, Helen. There are some little fishes darting about with blue-enamelled scales."
"How pretty they look!" cried Helen.
"Yes, they are ganoids. They are developing scales, which consist as yet of an inner layer of bone and an outer one of shining enamel."
Sharks, some of them five feet long, were lazily swimming about, and Helen noticed how much they had grown since she had seen them in the former period. Wandering on, looking at everything, they came to some fern-like plants fringing the lagoons, in which grew some much taller club-mosses and horse-tails and Lepidodendron trees.
Helen was so interested that she quite enjoyed the walk, although the air was so warm and steamy.
As they hurried along, Whirlaway told Helen that she would be very much more interested in the next period. Then he sang her another little song:
A SONG TO HELEN
O Helen, my dear,
You are weary, I fear,
But there's far more to find than Devonian,
Ere your tears you let fall
Like the King that men call
Alexander the great Macedonian.
Who complained like a child,
While philosophers smiled,
There were no other worlds for the winning.
We are wiser than he,
For it's easy to see—
"I want a final line," he said testily.
"How would this do?" asked Helen after a moment's reflection:
"Every ending is just a beginning."
"Good!" he replied. "You grow in knowledge and in understanding with every stage of the journey. Of course, in a circle there is no ending and no beginning. The Universe is infinite. But here's the next door."
"Slowly moves the march of ages,
Slowly grows the forest king,
Slowly to perfection cometh
Every great and perfect thing."
"May I open this door?" asked Helen as she looked up and read CARBONIFEROUS across it. "Remember, you have opened all the doors so far. I should love to use the red key, if you don't mind."
"Certainly," replied Whirlaway as he handed up the bunch of keys. "Don't forget to look at the year-stone. These year-stones are quite important."
"I have already seen it," replied Helen, unlocking the door. "It has ONE HUNDRED MILLION YEARS TO PERMIAN on it. But I want to know first just what CARBON-CARBON-CARBONIFEROUS means."
"It means," answered Whirlaway, "coal producing. It was principally in this period that the great coal-beds were laid down."
On entering they found the air was so hot, moist, and steamy that Helen at once thought of a greenhouse.
"Shall we find orchids here?" asked she, knowing that hot moist air always helps with the growth of these.
"Not orchids," Whirlaway answered, "but many peculiar trees, such as the Cordaites, which we shall soon see."
So they picked their way along the muddy banks of a lagoon, Helen carrying Tirri in her arms lest he should slip. Whirlaway drew Helen's attention to the many plants with graceful, fern-like leaves. In the centre of each of them grew a large cone like a pineapple. "These," he said, "are called Cycads. Similar kinds lasted for millions of years."
"I remember seeing one like that in the Public Gardens," said Helen.
"Well, you have never seen anything like this," announced Whirlaway, pointing towards a strange, lizard-like little creature about two and a half inches long with a triangular-shaped head and large eyes. It was crawling out of the water quite near them. Whirlaway told her its name was BRANCHIOSAURUS—the Lizard with Gills. Helen was amused when she heard that it had scales on its "stomach" to protect it when crawling over the ground.
"How clumsy the little thing looks!" said she as she watched it crawl along.
A little later on, coming to a sluggish stream that flowed into a lagoon, they followed it until they found that they could go no farther in that direction.
Kneeling down and making a cup with her hands, she plunged them into the water, which to her surprise was warm. So she flung it back without tasting it.
"Look, Whirlaway," she called, jumping to her feet, "there is a ready-made bridge!" And she pointed to a large tree-trunk, which had fallen across the narrowest part of the lagoon. "Shall we cross on it?"
"Yes," said Whirlaway, dancing along the trunk.
Picking Tirri up, she leaped on the fallen tree-trunk; but, as she ran along the log, she was alarmed to find that it had moved and was slowly drifting away.
"What shall we do?" she cried in terror. And, as she spoke, she gasped, for out of the water some distance away popped the head of a large animal like a crocodile. Tirri caught Helen tightly round the neck, as he, too, saw the great snout.
"Don't be frightened; we shall soon drift across the lagoon," said Whirlaway. As he spoke the heads of more of the ugly animals rose up out of the water, but they soon disappeared.
Presently, much to Helen's relief, the log drifted close to the bank. They jumped off, glad to be on land again and safe from the ugly animals in the water.
On a rugged rock at the side of the lagoon a huge animal was trying to find a resting-place. It was so big that it found difficulty in balancing itself. Its enormous flat head swayed from side to side. Watching them, it did not notice an eel-like wriggler and trod on its tail. It made both Helen and Whirlaway laugh to see the comical expression on the face of the larger animal and the pathetic look of the smaller one.
"They are both harmless, so there is nothing to be afraid of," said Whirlaway. "The small one is called DOLICHOSOMA (Mr. Kidney Bean, from the shape of his body). The larger one is LABYRINTHODON, named from its peculiar teeth. Some of them are as large as donkeys, for they were the giants of this age. They are both amphibious, that is, they can live both on the land and in the water. Labyrinthodons were among the very first creatures to have ten little fingers and ten little toes."
Soon after leaving the lagoon they came to a dense tropical jungle. The air was hot and damp and almost stifling, and the smell from the decaying vegetation was overpowering. The light could hardly penetrate through the tangled masses overhead. Everything was damp and clammy. Into this great vault-like chamber they slowly picked their way, Helen's feet sinking deep into the carpet of decaying vegetation.
Through the air fell showers of pollen, and the silence was broken only by the noise of a distant tree falling into the swamp.
"All this decaying vegetation forms in time a kind of peat and is later covered by sand, mud, and silt, until it is buried, when, by pressure and other causes, it is millions of years later changed to coal," said Whirlaway.
"I never knew it took so long to make the coal we burn in our fires," replied Helen.
"Well, it does, and most of the coal was formed at this time. That is why this epoch is sometimes called the 'Coal Age.'"
"I have never seen roots like that," said Helen, pointing in the dim light to where, jutting out almost straight from the bottom of the trunks, could be seen the twisted roots that buttressed them on all sides.
"Yes," said Whirlaway, "the swampy nature of the ground made it necessary that the trees should be supported in this way."
Tree-ferns and other plants were straining upwards to the light. Some had long tendrils with little hooks on them which caught the sides of the tree-ferns up which they climbed. Others threw their rope-like arms around the trunks, which were covered with seal-like impressions left by shed foliage. Some, on reaching the ferns above, fell back in great festoons, making it still darker below.
Poor Helen was just giving up in despair the attempt to push her way through when Whirlaway had a brilliant idea.
"Do you think you could climb the tall tree by pulling yourself up with the creepers?" he asked.
"I can try," said Helen, thrilled at the thought of getting away from the tangled mass.
So, hoisting Tirri firmly on her shoulder, she was just going to commence her climb when Tirri began to struggle. Helen had forgotten. Fancy helping a native bear to climb a tree! So she put him down, and the next minute he was on his way up the stem. Looking back at her, he seemed to be amused to watch Helen's slow progress.
On reaching a height of about fifty feet Helen carne to the tangled roof formed by the interlacing of the feathery arms of the large fern-like plants. Pushing them aside, she scrambled through, and stood gazing in wonder. For, before her, stretching for miles and miles, was a wonderful green carpet on which in the bright sunshine were dancing millions of insects.
Great dragon-flies, some over two feet from wing-tip to wing-tip, dived in and out. Some horse-tails raised their tufty spires over eighty feet to the blue sky, while other trees, with their large scarred trunks, rose higher—as high as one hundred feet.
"Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could walk along it!" called Helen.
"Try, but be careful where you tread," suggested Whirlaway as he daintily stepped out on to the green carpet.
So, telling Tirri to follow, they went carefully along. Helen pretended she was up in the clouds in a fairy palace.
After some time, dark clouds began to gather, and Whirlaway said that they would have to get down at the next opening in order that they could take shelter, as it often rained in torrents in this tropical jungle. Coming to a break, Helen reluctantly followed Whirlaway down, telling Tirri that he must come also.
On climbing down, they found themselves on the banks of another lagoon, and, peering into the water, they saw an extra-ordinary animal over two feet in length. Its eyes looked directly up at them out of its flat, triangular skull.
"That is DIPLOCAULUS," said Whirlaway, "Mr. Double Stem."
"Oh, look at his queer little limbs!" said Helen, as she watched it crawling on the bottom.
"Listen! What is that funny, creaking noise?" asked Helen.
"More of those Labyrinthodons, those creatures with the long bodies and with bony plates on their heads. But let us hurry," replied Whirlaway.
As he spoke, the rain came down in torrents, and they had to shelter in the thick undergrowth.
Helen saw a few large spiders and cockroaches, but she kept well away from theta.
Presently the rain stopped, but Helen thought the place dull and monotonous. There were no birds to sing and no bright butterflies. It was now getting very much colder, and she was quite glad when she saw the next door.
"It must be so, for miracles are ceased,
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected."
"This is the last time we shall use the red key," announced Whirlaway as Helen tried to push it into the keyhole. Her hands were so cold that she found a difficulty in turning it.
"And this is the shortest period we have come to yet," remarked Helen, drawing Whirlaway's attention to the year-stone, which had TWENTY MILLION YEARS TO TRIASSIC; "but I should like to know what Permian means. Has it anything to do with permanent?"
"Not at all," Whirlaway replied. "You should remember, Helen, that nothing in the Universe is permanent. All things flow."
"Then what does it mean?" persisted Helen.
"It has reference," answered Whirlaway, "to a town called PERM on the river Kama in Russia. The remains of the strange creatures we shall see in this period were found as fossils millions and millions of years later in the neighbourhood of Perm."
"Only there?" asked Helen.
"No, in other places as well; but most abundantly near Perm," was the reply.
As they pushed against the door it flew open and an icy scene was revealed. Great snow-clad mountain ranges stretched away in the distance, their white shimmering peaks standing out against the blue sky. Wide glaciers came winding down the mountain-sides, and, where they met the lowland, gave way to rushing rivers of icy-cold water. These disappeared into the forests of pine trees, the branches of which were mantled in snow.
A cloud blast made them shudder and disturbed Tirri in Helen's arms. He rubbed his eyes and snuggled closer to her shoulder. "We have certainly come to the end of the long summer you told me about," continued Helen. "This is winter with a vengeance!"
Putting Tirri down in order that she could stretch her arms, Helen flung them above her head. "How crisp the air is!" she said; "I feel I want to go on taking deep breaths for ever."
"Well, you will certainly have plenty of opportunity, for it is going to be a very long winter. It lasts on and off for five hundred thousand years," replied Whirlaway.
"Oh!" she cried, "look at those poor gingko trees! They are nearly smothered with the snow."
"How did you know their name?" asked Whirlaway.
"I know because I have seen them growing in the Public Gardens, and they are sometimes called maiden-hair trees. Mother told me about them. Long before there were any temples or churches people used to meet under the gingko trees to worship."
"We shall often see them," said Whirlaway. "Their little fan-shaped leaves are found through all the ages. They last with little change for millions and millions of years."
"Yes, Mother told me that," said Helen.
"You will notice," said Whirlaway, "that there are very few horse-tails and club-mosses, as the severe cold has killed most of them; but there are other more hardy trees, somewhat like fir trees, called conifers, which have taken their place."
Picking Tirri up in her arms, Helen raced down a hill, at the foot of which stretched a great sheet of ice. After a long walk across ice and snow they came to the bank of a great rushing river flowing from the lake. Floating down the muddy water were blocks of ice. Helen was watching them bump into one another as they drifted past, when suddenly she felt Whirlaway tugging at her skirt. Looking round, she saw Tirri, a few yards away, inspecting some leaves on a tree, and, creeping slowly towards him from behind came a fierce-looking animal, followed by several others. They had large eyes and horrid, tusk-like teeth, and at the end of their feet they had great claws.
Helen rushed to Tirri, seized him, turned, and fled back to Whirlaway, who was on the bank of the river. Glancing back she was terrified to see that their foremost pursuer, as it lumbered along, was gaining on them.
When she reached the river she leaped on a big piece of floating ice and Whirlaway followed her.
The large animal stood glaring at them from the bank of the fast-running river as they drifted away.
"Another minute and he would have caught us!" exclaimed Helen breathlessly.
"Inostrausevias are fierce animals; they hunt in packs along the rivers," remarked Whirlaway.
"What a name!" said Helen, smiling now that the danger was past. "Don't ask me to repeat it."
Floating down the river was really an adventure, and Helen enjoyed it. It was much better than walking, and she was tired after her exploits on the snow. Coming round a sharp bend, they were pleased to see that the snow was melting and dark patches of soil had appeared. The climate was milder.
"This block of ice is getting smaller and smaller, and the next time it passes near the bank of the river we must jump off," said Whirlaway. So at the next opportunity they jumped.
As they were leaving the river bank Whirlaway pointed out some sluggish animals about five feet long, which he said were called Eryops. These creatures spend most of their time out of the water. They walked inland, passing by many swamps, in which the travellers saw numerous large crested reptiles, crawling among the water-weeds. They then came to a lagoon and perceived, basking in the sunshine on a rock some distance away, two of the animals that had chased Helen and Tirri.
"They are good swimmers," said Whirlaway, "so we had better not wait here any longer."
Just as he spoke, up came the queerest animal Helen had ever seen.
"I'm off!" she cried in alarm. "This is the animal I said I would not ask to dinner when I saw it in the book."
"You need not worry," said Whirlaway. "Edaphosaurus, in spite of his looks, is quite harmless. He lives mainly on fish, and spends a great deal of time in the water. Edaphos means, in Greek, ground; and sauros, a lizard. When he is excited or startled, as he was just now on seeing you and Tirri, up goes his funny crest."
"What is the object of his crest?" asked Helen.
"It affords some protection to his back when he is attacked, and makes him look perhaps more formidable than he really is," answered Whirlaway.
"Let us hurry on," said Whirlaway, "because Dimetrodon over there cannot move very quickly; but he is dangerous all the same. He is eight feet in length, his crest is three feet high, and he is the most powerful and the fiercest of all animals in this period."
Off they went, but before they had travelled any great distance there appeared a huge tortoise-like animal with its back protected by several bony plates curving down on either side of it.
"Well, he believes in safety first," said Helen, "with all that armour."
"Yes," replied Whirlaway, "he is intent on a quiet life, and when danger approaches he simply gets inside his shell and sits down tight. Then nothing can harm him."
The creature lumbered heavily past them and disappeared among the cycads.
"Just as the little animals in the sea were given shells to protect them from their enemies, so this animal (called Diadectes) was given armour to shield it from the ferocious animals that lived at this time."
"There is Naosauris the Ship Lizard. He is a cousin of the other crested one we have just seen," continued Whirlaway. "They all become extinct at the end of this period. His worst enemy is Cynognathus, whose name means dog-jawed. Some of these animals are six feet in length; they often hunt together and are very fierce. We shall have to watch carefully which way we go through this part, as there may be some of them about."
"What has become of all those horrible land-scorpions?" asked Helen.
"They have now died out altogether."
"I'm glad to hear that. And what about the little trilobites?"
"I'm sorry, but we shall not see any more of them, for they, too, have died out."
As they passed by some conifer trees, they heard a loud, crunching sound.
"Pick up Tirri," whispered Whirlaway, "and don't move till I tell you."
Peeping out, they saw one of the dog-jawed animals with a large bone.
"We had better go in the direction of that lagoon," said Whirlaway, "as quickly as we can."
Reaching the bank, Helen stopped.
"But listen!" she cried as she heard a croak, croak. It was answered by a still louder croak.
"This is the same noise that the big toad-like creature made in the last period," he answered.
On the bank close by Helen saw no fewer than four of these big clammy-looking Labyrinthodons crawling about.
They were timid monsters, and, as soon as they were seen, they plunged off the bank. Plonk-plonk, plonk-plonk, they went into the water.
Turning away from the lagoon, Helen suddenly stopped. "I am sure I saw something move near those cycad plants."
"You are right," said Whirlaway, as a large animal crept out.
"Don't be afraid of him. Old Betwixt-and-Between won't hurt you. He is really the link between the amphibians and the reptiles. His name, strangely enough, means Cheek Piece Lizard." And Whirlaway began to sing:
THE SONG OF PAREIASAURUS
A queer little creature, I'd have you know,
Lived ages and ages and ages ago,
His ancestors all belonged to the clan
That scientists call AM-PHIB-I-AN.
Both gills and lungs had each son and daughter,
On the beach they could wriggle, or swim under water.
But this one said,
"I'm sick of the sea,
And a land-lubber bold I fain would be.
To lose these gills is my fixed resolve;
Henceforth my watchword will be 'Evolve!'
With stumpy legs I would wander free,
Oh, a reptile's life is the life for me!"
So he kept to the land as well as he could
That his young ambition he might make good.
He really grew less am-phib-i-an,
But not altogether rep-til-i-an,
Just a nondescript (you know what I mean)—
A Pareiasaurus, Betwixt-and-Between.
"How was he the link between them?" asked Helen.
Whirlaway explained that the amphibians were the first animals that could live both in the water and on the land. "They were curious fish-like creatures," he said, "that grew tired of the water and thought they would like to see what it was like to move about on the land.
"At first," he continued, "they could not stay out of the water for any length of time; but, by continually coming out for short periods, they developed lungs to breathe in the air.
"Many of them preferred the land to the water. Those that spent most of their lives on the land came to have a harder covering as the sun dried up their slimy skin; and, though they got sore backs to begin with, their skin became much more suitable for land life.
"It was not merely curiosity or search of adventure that urged them to come out of the water, but something deeper and more vital. You see, old Betwixt-and-Between has now a tough skin and lungs, even though he does puff and pant if he is hurried. He is at home on the land.
"It was during this time that two great continents were formed. The northern one extended from Asia across Europe to North America, and the southern continent, known as Gondwanaland, included most of Australia, India, Africa, and Brazil. There was a great change in this period from land-living amphibians to reptiles, which laid their eggs on the land."
"It is all very interesting," said Helen.
"Yes," said Whirlaway, continuing his story as they walked along.
"As from the fishes the amphibians branched out into different types, such as frogs and salamanders, so from the amphibians came the reptiles. They developed along many different lines, as you saw from the chart in the book. Do you know that this is the end of the section marked red in the book? So far, you have seen early life in the sea develop and come out and invade the earth. The bare, barren country without any vegetation developed growth far greater than that of any tropical jungle."
Just a whispered "Yes" came from Helen's lips as she listened to Whirlaway talking so freely about the wonders she had seen. She felt that his knowledge was profound, and his power of imparting it was a wonderful gift, though she forgot that a good listener helps to make a good talker.
"During these millions and millions of years," he continued, "you saw life advance slowly but surely in both the vegetable and the animal kingdoms. From the first little plant came the beautiful gingko tree, and from the minute life in the sea the weird reptiles that laid their eggs on the land. Those reptiles are the most important of all creatures at this end of the Palaeozoic era.
"There were other changes in Nature. Throughout all these millions and millions of years, during the long hot and icy-cold periods, terrific earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other upheavals have happened, remodelling the earth's surface."
"Yes, how wonderful it has been!" said Helen. "And now I am just longing to see the 'Golden' portion marked in the book."
"You will enjoy it," replied Whirlaway. "See, the tropic vegetation near the door is typical of what we shall find on the other side."
"All things beneath the Sun
Of but one stuff are spun."
"What a long time it is since we saw the first trilobite in the Cambrian Period!" sighed Helen—"over four hundred and twenty million years!"
"You surprise me," cried Whirlaway. "How did you know how long it was?"
"Quite simple! I counted the years on the stones as we came to them," replied Helen, pleased to think that she had surprised the wise Whirlaway.
"Good! but you must remember that the year-stones are only to give a general idea of the length of the different periods. They are not always exactly accurate."
"Oh, I remember you told me that before. Look, this year-stone has FIFTY MILLION YEARS TO JURASSIC,"
"Well, let us open the door and see what it is hiding from us," suggested Whirlaway.
So Helen pushed the red key into the lock, turning it this way and that, but with no success—it would not go round. "Bother!" she said a trifle impatiently.
"Ahem!" coughed Whirlaway, his eyes twinkling. "Try the golden key. You must remember that this is a new era. It was shown in yellow in your big book and marked Mesozoic, and the Mesozoic, again, was divided into three periods—Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous."
"How foolish of me! I remember you said at the previous door that it would be the last time we'd use the red key."
She inserted the golden key and turned it, and the door opened.
Wandering along, Helen noticed how parched the ground was, yet the air, though dry, was crisp. Whirlaway jumped and skipped about among the shrubs.
"Doesn't the air seem sweeter and purer, and don't you feel you want to throw up your arms and cry out:'Top of the morning to you?'"
"That's just exactly how I do feel," she agreed. "Look at those horse-tails and club-mosses, Whirlaway. They are so small, and only apologies for their former selves; but those cypress and fir trees over there seem to be finer specimens than any we saw in the Permian Period."
Branching off, he led the way through a forest glade.
"Follow me closely," he called back over his shoulder, "and hold tight to Tirri or he may disappear up one of the trees."
Keeping closely behind her brightly-clad guide, Helen let her thoughts fly back to all the strange things she had seen, and she hoped that this era might have even greater wonders in store.
Hearing something move near a cycad fern at her side, Helen was startled to see a weird animal approaching. But, when Whirlaway laughed, she guessed it would not harm her.
Helen could not help laughing herself at the creature, for it had a nose like a bird's beak, a funny stumpy tail, and a very fat little body.
"Why, it's Mrs. Solemn Stupid!" said Helen. "I would know her anywhere. What is our friend's real name, Whirlaway?"
"Kannemeyeria, if I remember rightly," he replied.
"Well, I think my name Solemn Stupid suits her much better."
"What is that?" she exclaimed as she heard something move.
Before Whirlaway could answer there was a scratch-scratch, and, looking up, she gazed in wonder. There, clinging to the trees, were the queerest-looking animals with wings.
"They are flying reptiles, sometimes called Dragons of the Air."
"Will they hurt me?"
"Th-at's go-ood," was the uncertain reply; and it took her some moments to regain her composure.
The certainty that the occupants of the trees were quite harmless changed her anxiety to mirth, and she laughed at their quaintness.
"Don't they look odd? I have seen Mother smile at drawings of pigs with wings. What would she do if she saw those funny things?"
One of them glided to the ground, and Helen could see the clear outline of its legs and the outstretched wings that were jointed to the legs.
"Can you see the rows of teeth in the jaw?" asked Whirlaway.
"Teeth! Don't they look ferocious! And I think the name Dragons of the Air suits them well."
Looking back, Helen was surprised to see old Stumpy Tail panting along after them.
"Now, why on earth does she want to follow us?"
"It's not you and me she wants to see, it's Tirri. She has never seen fur before, nor has she seen anything like Tirri."
"Well, just to be on the safe side, I'll pick my pet up and carry him."
"Old Stumpy Tail," said Whirlaway, "is a true reptile, living entirely on the land, and now she thinks she is much superior to her distant relations that still swim about in the water."
"S-s-s-s-s-h!" and Whirlaway motioned to Helen to stand still.
Out of the undergrowth hopped—yes, hopped like a bird—a quaint little animal about the size of a cat.
Catching sight of Helen and Tirri, it stood alert on its hind legs, with its little front paws held out like those of a kangaroo.
She was able to look carefully at it. It had a lizard-like head, a long, graceful neck, and a slim body.
She controlled her curiosity as long as she could, but her whispered query to Whirlaway startled the creature, and it hopped back into the bushes.
"It is a most important little animal," he said, "called Seleromochlus, for it is one of the first dinosaurs. You will see many dinosaurs later on, for they developed into the most grotesque and horrible animals that the world has ever known."
The ferns rustled in front of them. A still more extraordinary little animal came out with short feathers on its front and hind legs.
"That is an ancestor of the birds," said Whirlaway, "although it has hardly a feather to fly with. In their attempt to escape from the little dinosaurs, they used their wings more and more and they became better adapted to flying. Later they had feathers on their tail as well. Have you ever thought of the great advantage flight is to birds?"
"Yes, I know," said Helen, "it helps them to escape very easily from their enemies. It enables them to place their eggs high up in the trees and on ledges of rocks, and they can also migrate when winter comes and so escape the cold weather."
Coming to a clearing in the trees, they saw before them in the sunshine, on the banks of a stream, two strange creatures. One, with a head three feet long and two feet wide, uttered a loud snort and moved towards the water.
Whirlaway informed her that it was Mastodonsaurus. The name, he said, meant Nipple-Tooth.
The noise it made disturbed the other animal, which raised its long pointed snout, showing great ugly teeth.
Both animals sank into the water and disappeared.
"They are both members of the Crocodile family."
"Well, I don't like any of their relations, and I shall keep well out of their way," said Helen.
The climate had become quite mild, and on the banks of the pretty stream grew tall ferns and flowering cycads. Over its surface dragon-flies skimmed.
"This is lovely! Do let us sit down here for a while. It is a good place to rest."
So they sat down, and Tirri enjoyed himself climbing the trees.
Crawling in and out of the decayed vegetation were many busy beetles.
Everything seemed so peaceful; only the buzz of insects and the murmur of the stream as it sang its way down to the sea broke the silence.
"Hush!" Motioning Whirlaway to keep still, Helen pointed to the opposite bank.
Rustling among the ferns was a little animal about the size of a small kitten, and beside it played its baby.
She could not take her eyes from them as they scampered about, and, tugging Whirlaway's coat, she asked him what they were.
"Mammals," he replied very quietly.
But at that moment Tirri moved in the branches above, there was a rustle, and the little animal and its baby scurried off.
"They have gone! What a pity they are so timid! What do you mean by mammals?"
"They are," said Whirlaway, "the most important little animals we have met on our journey, although they are small as yet. Mammals are creatures which, like the cow, give milk to their young. A mammal has a different head from that of any other animal we have yet seen, and a larger and much more developed brain, and, apart from this, they are faster and much more agile. Really the big difference is that while the baby reptiles are generally hatched from eggs young mammals are not.
"They have different teeth also," continued Whirlaway, "because reptiles swallow their food almost whole, and mammals make use of their teeth to crunch it up."
Scrambling to her feet, Helen called Tirri, and they continued on their way, feeling much fresher for their rest.
Hearing the pounding of waves upon the seashore, they hurried in that direction.
"Look!" said Whirlaway, pointing to some large nautiloid shells, "they have now nearly all coiled."
"Yes, but oh, Whirlaway, is that a king crab? Because I have seen ones like that on the beach at home."
"Yes, they are king crabs."
As they left the beach Helen remarked that she had not seen any of the strange crested animals that were so numerous in the Permian Period.
Whirlaway said that she would not see any more of them as they had all died out.
Through an opening in the trees in the distance they caught sight of the door to the next period.
Helen noticed, on the ground before them, imprints of three-toed feet, which showed clearly that the animal that had made them had run on its hind feet, and here and there were impressions of its tail on the ground, showing where it had sat down to rest.
"Let us follow the footprints," suggested Helen. "I should like to see the creature that made them."
So they carefully followed the mysterious footprints, and, turning into an opening in the trees, saw the animal to which they belonged.
"That's Anchisaurus," said Whirlaway as they looked at a graceful animal with a long neck and tapering tail. "His name means Early Lizard, or Nearly a Lizard."
"Look at his wicked eyes," she said, "he's after something."
Sure enough, the next minute the creature darted forward and, bending its long neck down to the ground, snapped up a little animal that came from the undergrowth.
"This is one of the terrible dinosaurs I told you about," whispered Whirlaway as they crept away on tiptoes.
"Perhaps there are many more of them about, even quite close to us. Oh, let us go!"
Coming through a fern glade they saw, about fifty yards ahead, two large animals fighting.
"They are called Plateosaurus," said Whirlaway. "They are terrible creatures."
Helen felt sure one of them was nearly twenty feet long and the other about fifteen feet. She gazed spellbound at the awful encounter,
"Let us get away and keep under cover of the ferns, and then they will not see us," said Whirlaway.
Looking anxiously about her, Helen made for the door as fast as her legs could carry her, with Tirri in her arms. Many of the quaint flying dragons appeared as they ran along, but they had not time to stay and watch them.
"Dragons of the prime
That tare each other in their slime."
Whirlaway was the first to reach the Jurassic door, and he soon had it open. As Helen dashed up, she read on the year-stone SIXTY MILLION YEARS TO CRETACEOUS.
"Jurassic!" said Helen, out of breath. "What does that big word mean?"
"Jurassic," replied Whirlaway, who was never at a loss when explanations were needed, "means belonging to the Jura mountains, a French range on the border of Switzerland, rich in fossil remains of this period."
Climbing up over some rocks, they could see in the distance fine forests of conifer, cycad, and gingko trees, and many beautiful ferns.
Whirlaway pointed to the sea glistering in the sunlight below them, and, as they made their way towards it, he began to tell Helen, half in bravado and half as a warning, about the gigantic brutes that they might now expect to see.
"The great Fish Lizard," he said, "has an eye as large as a man's head, with bony plates round it. These plates can be contracted at will, thus adjusting the sight for long distances and for near views."
"That's like Granny," said Helen, smiling, "only she has two pairs of spectacles, one for nearness and one for distance."
"It has a jaw," continued Whirlaway, ignoring the interruption, "with teeth like the spikes on a jail gate."
"I believe you are only trying to frighten me," said Helen.
"Indeed I'm not. There are some much worse than that," he went on. "Plesiosaurus has a neck twenty feet long, so that he can reach out with it and catch his prey, and he has pretty sharp teeth, I can tell you. But the most horrible and terrible of all is 'Rex,' a real tyrant. He walks on his two hind legs and has hands with dreadful claws. His head is eighteen feet from the ground, and his whole body measures forty-seven feet from the nose to the tip of the tail."
Helen tried to imagine this mighty monster and dreaded the thought of meeting it.
"Is he really so awful?" she asked.
"He is a walking horror, but don't let us talk about him. That looks like the sea glistering through the trees, and we may find something of interest over there."
Tirri snuggled up in Helen's arms as they picked their way through the trees. Climbing about among the branches were several weird-looking little Dragons of the Air, like those they had seen before. These looked down at them with such comical expressions that Helen had to laugh.
At last they reached the shore. The sea was as blue as sapphire, and the wavelets lapping the beach made the only sound to break the stillness.
It all looked so peaceful, and they felt so contented that they resolved to sit down and watch a school of fishes that was being chased by some enemy they could not see.
Suddenly a huge head appeared. It was raised higher and higher, until it was twenty feet above the surface of the water.
Helen was spellbound with terror. She could not move nor could she take her eyes from its cruel face, which seemed to be all the more terrible every time it opened its strong jaws and showed its huge pointed teeth.
It appeared to be coming straight towards them, and even Whirlaway himself was visibly agitated. He had lost his bravado, and he made an effort to drag Helen away. At that moment there was a great splash, and another huge creature leaped out of the water straight at the long neck of the first one. They fought frantically, churning up and lashing the water. It was a fight to the death, and it seemed as if it would never end.
As the minutes passed it was evident that the hideous brutes were both sorely wounded; and, when at last they sank with their long teeth fastened into each other, Helen, pale and trembling, found her voice.
"Oh, Whirlaway, how ghastly! Do you think they have killed each other, and have they gone for good?"
"Not the slightest doubt about it," replied Whirlaway. "I told you what to expect. The long-necked one was Plesio (for short), Plesiosaurus if you want to be wise and learned. He usually paddles about on the surface, and thrusts his neck into the water to gulp down fish that are far too big for him to swallow, so he has to twist and turn his neck to get them down. He is a greedy brute, and, when he has eaten several of them, he swallows some pebbles to help him to digest them.
"I can remember when old Plesio lived on the land, and went about on four legs. At that time he was always hanging about the seashore feeding sometimes on shore animals and at other times on fish. When he found that the sea was a much easier place than the land to get his food he took to the sea altogether. His feet developed into paddles and he became quite a good swimmer."
"That is curious," said Helen; "but tell me about that horrid brute with the goggle eyes and horrible teeth."
"He is ICHTHYOSAURUS, which means Fish Lizard, so we will call him that. He and Plesio are deadly enemies. Like Plesio, he originated on the land, but now never leaves the sea."
They moved on and came to a number of turtles sporting in the shallows. In the distance, however, could be seen Plesio and the Fish Lizard. Considering discretion the better part of valour, Helen and her guide climbed up a cliff and wandered through fern glades among the graceful gingko and flowering cycads.
"Can that possibly be a bee?"
"A bee! I should say a swarm of them," cried Whirlaway as he flung his red cape over his head. "Get Tirri, Helen, and let us run before they sting us."
Gathering Tirri, Helen raced after him and, not looking where she was going, stepped into a shallow pool of stagnant water.
In an instant the air was thick with mosquitoes.
"Run!" called Whirlaway, "and we shall soon leave them behind."
She was quick to obey, and they sped into a thicket.
"Oh, look what I have found!" cried Helen.
Turning round, Whirlaway saw her stoop and pick up a feather.
"It belongs to Archaeopteryx," he told her as he examined it, and, seeing her puzzled look, he added, "His name means ancient winged creature. He is one of the first birds, and I think he deserves a song." So he began to lilt:
"In naming him they took a risk,
For was he Bird or Basilisk?
The scientists were in a fix,
So they called him ARCHAEOPTERYX.
A pinch of THIS with THAT they mix
Since every trade must have its tricks.
They give a name and then it sticks,
So he's an ARCHAEOPTERYX.
With an R and a Key and a couple of clicks,
Oh, he's an ARCHAEOPTERYX.
"I should like to see one," said Helen.
"Mm, I should think there are many of them not far away. Keep a sharp look out for them in the trees."
"There is one," she cried.
Sure enough, perched on a tree near by, were some odd-looking bird-like creatures about the size of crows. They had no beaks, and in their jaws, which were covered with skin, were sharp teeth.
"Fancy a bird with teeth!" cried Helen. "If you only saw its head, you would be sure it was a lizard or some other reptile. Its tail, too, is like that of a reptile, only it has feathers growing out of each side."
"Their ancestors were reptiles," Whirlaway explained, "the chart in the book showed you that. You see, they still have claws at the end of their feathered wings."
"Look, that one up there must be moulting," said Helen, laughing and drawing his attention to one with very few feathers.
"See the way they use their claws to catch hold of the branches," said Whirlaway. "They are not really good fliers, you know. I'll frighten one down, and you watch it."
While Whirlaway flapped his cloak, Helen watched one swoop down. On its hind legs she could see feathers, which helped to support its body when flying. It alighted on the ground and ran into the undergrowth. Hurrying after it, she was startled to hear a noise beneath the ground where she was standing. She stamped her foot and it stopped for a moment, then it started again.
"Whirlaway, come here; I think I have discovered some crickets!"
"Yes, their chirping was the first deliberate animal sound produced," he explained as they listened to it.
"The very first voice," she cried. "I had no idea that crickets had been singing for millions and millions of years." She stamped her foot once more and all was quiet again.
"Listen!" cried the alert Whirlaway.
Nearer and nearer came the noise of an animal pushing through the ferns and shrubs.
"Be quick!" he called as they scrambled under a ferny patch.
There came a loud crash, and a terrible-looking creature emerged. Helen clasped Tirri firmly and held her breath lest she should let the enemy know where they were hiding. It stood fifteen feet high, and it walked erect on its hind legs, carrying its front legs, which looked just like arms, close to its side. On its hands it had great spikes, eight inches long, which looked like thumbs.
As they watched it tear its way through the trees, throwing up dirt with its powerful three toed feet, they heard what seemed to be another animal moving through the undergrowth.
"Not another one," whispered Helen, terrified. But at that instant appeared another monster, eighteen feet high, with a lizard-like head, a horn on its nose, and showing, in its opened mouth, long, cruel teeth. Breathing heavily, it waddled in pursuit of the first animal with the spiky thumbs.
"Look, that one has its feet turned in," cried Helen, "so I suppose it can't run so very quickly."
"Quite quickly enough," replied Whirlaway. "Let us go after him and see what happens."
So they crept on quietly and well out of sight to a hill. They saw the first animal making for a pool of water and the other one close on its heels. Even from this distance they could hear the laboured breathing.
"If the first one can get to the water in time he will be safe, because he is a good swimmer," said Whirlaway, keyed up with the pursuit.
The first animal reached the water and, with a loud splash, disappeared from sight.
"I am glad he escaped," cried Helen.
"So am I. He is really a nice fellow when you get to know him. His name is Iguanodon."
"I would rather call him Thumbs-up," replied Helen, "it's so much easier to say."
"A good name, too," agreed her friend. "Now, the other creature that was chasing him is cruel and brutal. His name is Ceratosaurus, or Horned Lizard. We'd be wise to keep well out of his way."
Hearing a gasp, and looking up at Helen, Whirlaway saw that her face had gone white and she was staring before her in horror.
"It's coming up this way," she cried, her voice trembling.
They rushed behind a tree, and the next minute the animal was close beside them. But, oh, they had forgotten Tirri! He was right beside the monster. Helen was just going to spring out and rescue him when Whirlaway held her skirt.
"Keep still," he whispered, and Helen fell back behind the tree and covered her face with her hands.
Tirri caught sight of the huge creature just as it was about to seize him, and in a flash he had scrambled round behind a tree and out of sight. The animal lumbered after him, but Tirri was too clever. He was well out of reach, gazing down from one of the highest branches in that quaint little way of his.
The animal shook its head and strode off ponderously through the undergrowth.
"Helen," cried Whirlaway, touching her gently. "Look, your pet is quite safe, he is up in a tree."
"Oh, the darling!" she cried, and, wiping the tears from her eyes, she called him to come down. Very soon Tirri was again on her shoulder none the worse for his adventure, and still clasping his gum leaves.
They had not gone very much farther when, perched on a conifer tree in front of them, they noticed one of the birds Helen had seen before. In front of it stood an alert little animal on its hind legs, with a long slender tail stretched out behind it.
"Compsognathus longipes causes those creatures a great deal of worry," Whirlaway explained. "He is always after them, for he lives on birds, and it was probably through him that you found that feather."
"Look at the hideous grin!" exclaimed Helen, and so with a loud shout she frightened the animal away. Off it raced on its nimble feet and was soon out of sight.
Coming over the crest of a hill, they looked down on a broad, sluggish stream. Basking on its banks in the warm sun, and swishing their tails and opening and closing their powerful jaws, were dozens of huge crocodiles.
"Oh!" cried Helen, "don't let us go down that way. I hate crocodiles! They're supposed to shed tears and make a noise of weeping to lure to them kind-hearted passers-by, and then they devour them."
Whirlaway said that was merely an old fairy-tale, but to see the monsters from a distance was quite sufficient, so they continued their journey through the tall trees.
They had to beat off swarms of mosquitoes, and they heard afar off the dim droning of bees. Dragons of the Air would, at times, attract their attention by clawing the limbs of the trees and flapping their wings. They would hide when they heard the heavier monsters pursuing their prey and crashing through the trees.
"There are some extraordinary animals," said Whirlaway, pointing up into a tree where some large creatures climbed among the branches. "They are named Ornithopoda, which means Bird Feet, and of all the dinosaurs they are the most closely related to birds. See the horny bills they have, and the way the three-toed feet cling to the branches. They are almost like birds."
"But they have no feathers!" cried Helen.
"No, and they can't fly. They simply climb about the big trees and walk on the ground when they want to do so."
Crunch, crunch, crunch came the sound of huge jaws, and Helen was about to pick Tirri up and fly when Whirlaway stopped her.
"It's all right," he said quietly, "that noise is coming from a harmless animal that lives on reeds and leaves. Let us have a look at it."
So, creeping through the trees, they came across an extraordinary sight. There, among some trees, was a strange-looking monster eighteen feet long. With its back half-turned towards them, they could see two large horns on its shoulder and small bony plates sticking out from its back and continuing down its long tail.
"Their ferocious appearance makes most of them seem more dreadful than they really are. The animal's name is Scelidosaurus, which means Beef Ribs!"
"Beef Ribs! What a funny name!" exclaimed Helen, and, without disturbing Beef Ribs, they turned to walk away when Helen noticed a small mound. "Just look what I have found." She knelt beside it.
"A nest. Yes, I thought we might come across one," said Whirlaway as he opened up the mound and found six dullish-white eggs. "The mothers leave them like that to hatch by the heat of the sun," he explained.
They had only just covered up the eggs when the crashing of the scrub heralded the approach of another monster. It was the most terrible beast Helen had ever seen. It strode like a ponderous giant, pushing the branches to one side with its horrible claw-like hands. It was heavily built, and, as it plunged along in a hunched manner, its long teeth were visible in its lower jaw.
"It's a brute, I can tell that," Helen muttered half to herself as it approached them.
"He is after Beef Ribs," whispered Whirlaway.
Looking up, she saw that poor old Beef Ribs was being pursued by the terrible monster. As the chase progressed great clods of earth were thrown up, and trees were broken as if they were matchwood. The animals quickly disappeared, and once more they breathed freely.
"Oh, Whirlaway, what a dreadful animal! I am sure it must have been easily twenty feet long."
"It was," he responded, "but Megalosaurus (that is his name, meaning Huge Reptile) is not nearly so terrible as one rather like him, called Rex, that I told you about. Rex is the worst of all. You could never imagine such a horrible beast, and I do hope we shall never meet him."
With this Helen was in hearty agreement. They followed a little stream, keeping close to its banks. The water was alive with crocodiles, but to her relief the creatures did not notice them. They seemed too lazy even to unclose their eyes, and occasionally one opened its mouth and yawned, revealing its hideous teeth.
Leaving the stream, they walked up a sand-hill to the right. At the top of the rise they looked down on a delightful scene. There, moving slowly about on the warm sand, were some animals that were quite different from anything Helen had yet seen.
They had short legs and plump bodies and hooked beaks, and they wore, projecting from the back of their heads, large bony shields that looked like frilled collars.
"There is no need to tell me that they are harmless," said Helen, as she raced down the side of the hill to where they stood. Tirri and Whirlaway followed close behind.
"Isn't he quaint?" remarked Helen, pointing to one little fellow who had not budged and who was staring solemnly at her.
"They are the young of the Protoceratops, and that big one over there has a secret. Haven't you, old lady?" asked Whirlaway, walking up very close to the large beak-nosed animal. "She won't answer me," he continued, turning to Helen, "but I know she has. It's buried in the sand here."
"What is it?" asked Helen, her eyes wide open with wonder.
"Eggs!" he whispered. "Now, come along, old lady, let us uncover them just for a minute. We'll put the sand on them again."
Scraping away some sand, they discovered a nest of eggs, all placed in a circle and each with the small end pointing inwards. Helen was very excited when she saw them, but soon helped to cover them up again. To her surprise the large animal was quite unconcerned about it all.
As they walked back over the sand-hill, Helen was looking over her shoulder at the creatures they had left when Whirlaway startled her by crying out loudly. Looking round, she saw him jumping up and down with excitement and waving his arms in the air. "There he is; there is the one I was telling you about. Hurrah! there is Diplodocus. Mr. Double Beam. He has a double ridge along his tail bone."
In the distance Helen could see a head waving to and fro on a neck over thirty feet in the air; but she could not see any more of the animal for it was hidden behind some trees.
Whirlaway raced over to it.
"She just wouldn't believe you were real," Helen heard him telling Diplodocus as she came upon them by the edge of the river. She could not help laughing at the pair of them—tiny Whirlaway, a mere speck beside his long-necked animal friend, a friend that measured eighty-seven feet from head to tail.
"There, what did I tell you?" cried Whirlaway with a gay flourish of his hand. "Isn't he wonderful?"
"Yes, and I do like him," replied Helen as she surveyed the monster.
"He weighs forty tons," went on Whirlaway hurriedly, "so he spends most of his time eating. He just eats and eats all day so that he can fill up that big body of his."
"He needs it!" cried Helen as she looked up and smiled at the monster.
"One would think you were on show the way he talks about you." To her surprise he grinned back at her, and she wondered if he actually knew what it was all about.
"But sometimes he wishes he did not weigh so much," continued the long-necked animal's admirer, "and that he was a little lighter on his feet, for, when he is attacked, the only refuge he can find is to sink into the nearest water and hide himself in that way."
The huge creature took two or three ponderous steps forward and then stopped. Swerving his long neck round, he opened his mouth and uttered a strange cry.
"Perhaps that is a warning," said Whirlaway, and, looking up, he saw another animal, very like Mr. Long-neck, approaching slowly towards them. "Here is a relation of his. His name is Brontosaurus, the Thunderer."
"What a noise he makes when he walks!" exclaimed Helen.
"Well, so would you if you were a hundred feet long and weighed thirty-eight tons. His name means 'Thunder Reptile,' because of the noise he makes when he walks."
"A good name, too," said Helen.
Hearing a terrific splash, they looked up to see Brontosaurus in the river.
Laughing, Whirlaway told Helen he was walking along the hard bottom of the river.
"Isn't that clever?" she remarked, smiling to see the slow but sure progress he was making through the water.
Mr. Long-neck, hearing the complimentary remarks about his relative, with much deliberation prepared likewise to leave terra firma. This necessitated a plan of action in keeping with his bulk. It consisted of placing his front feet over the edge and sliding down the steep bank. The level of the water was so raised that it overflowed its banks and would have drenched them to the skin had they not quickly retreated.
"I am very glad indeed to have seen you again," called Whirlaway as they prepared to leave.
Mr. Long-neck nodded his head in a very polite manner and continued his walk along the bed of the river.
"I DID like him," said Helen, as they followed the winding river along. "He looked much more amiable than his picture looked in the book. No, I wouldn't like to drop a bomb on him. He's too nice to die."
Here and there the stream divided and joined up again, forming picturesque islands, on which grew trees of many kinds. Sometimes the splash of a crocodile startled them as it slid out of sight into the warm water. The water-reeds that lined the banks were tall, and she could see beyond them only where they were not growing thickly.
Stopping suddenly, she tugged at Whirlaway's coat.
"Look, whatever is it?" she whispered.
Stooping down and drinking on the opposite bank of the river was the queerest of animals. Down the centre of its back were two rows of huge horny plates, which became smaller as they got to its tail. There they gave way to several rows of sharp spikes sticking straight out!
"It looks hideous," said Helen. "I'm glad we are on the opposite side of the river."
"Stegosaurus, the Plated Lizard, will not hurt you, although it is grotesque. It is thirty feet long, and it lives on rushes like Mr. Long-neck."
It lifted its little head and, turning slowly, walked away, nodding it as it went.
"Anyway," said Whirlaway, "it's quite stupid; it has a very small brain."
"I think many others we met are also rather stupid," remarked Helen as they moved on.
Whirlaway agreed with her, telling her that none of the reptiles were intelligent, although they were so large.
"You don't need to be big to be intelligent," said Helen, looking admiringly at her companion.
Whirlaway stopped and, catching hold of Helen, bade her hide behind some ferns.
"What's the matter?" she whispered.
"Another dinosaur, Antrodemus!" he explained. "Look, there is its leg," and he pointed to a leg nine feet long sticking out from behind a huge cycad.
"But why is he lying down? Perhaps he's dead."
"No, he is a sly fellow. He is waiting for his prey. He will pounce upon anything that comes past him. He has a huge mouth and the most awful teeth."
There was a shuffle in the undergrowth and Thumbs-up appeared, racing as hard as he could. The great monster in hiding was on his feet in a minute, but this time he got the worst of the battle. Thumbs-up, turning quickly, drove one of his spiky thumbs into the beast and then rushed on.
The injured dinosaur was infuriated and tried to take up the chase, but his wound hampered him. Thumbs-up had little trouble in keeping him at a distance.
Whirlaway and Helen stealthily made towards the next door, creeping from bush to bush to keep out of his sight. Whirlaway's coloured cloak, however, was difficult to conceal, particularly as the bushes began to thin out. It was evident that they would have to run for safety over an open space, behind which was the door. The wounded brute had lost track of Thumbs-up and was looking for any movement in the bushes that might indicate the whereabouts of his antagonist. From behind a shrub Whirlaway and Helen, who was clutching Tirri tightly, watched him intently.
"Run for it when I say," instructed Whirlaway.
"We'll have to be quick," replied Helen.
"Now," whispered Whirlaway.
They sped into the open. The brute's attention was attracted elsewhere and he did not notice them until they had covered some of the distance.
"He has seen us," cried Helen.
"Run for your life," called Whirlaway.
The dinosaur made straight for them, bending his neck forward to increase his speed. He was slowly gaining on them, and the door was still some distance off. They were in deadly peril. Could they last it out?
"Let me review the scene,
And summon from the shadowy Past
The forms that once have been."
Never before had Helen run so fast. The dinosaur regarded her as a particularly dainty morsel, and he was using all his speed to overtake her. He was not going, however, at a rate that suggested he might reach the door before them; but they had to unlock it, and that took time.
They reached the door while the dinosaur was still some distance away. In her anxiety, Helen fumbled about with the golden key, trying to insert it in the lock. Whirlaway jumped forward, and between them, they got the key into the hole. They tried to turn it, but their combined efforts were not enough. It would not go round. The dinosaur was only a hundred yards away and their plight was desperate.
Whirlaway noticed a pine stick lying near the door. In an instant he had pushed it through the head of the key, and he implored her to exert all her weight and strength to lever it round. The key turned. They pushed the door open, rushed frantically through, and slammed it on the dinosaur. They were not a second too soon, for there came a terrible crash. The brute had been unable to check his speed and the impetus had hurled him against the strong door. They trembled lest it should give way. There was an ominous silence. But soon they knew that they were safe. They looked at each other with evident thankfulness; it was some time before either of them spoke.
"A close call!" said Whirlaway at last.
"Ugh! It was dreadful," panted Helen, her breath coming in great gasps. "Peep through the keyhole and see if he is still there. I've no breath," she continued, and sank wearily to the ground.
After a while Whirlaway withdrew his gaze from the keyhole and turned to her.
"He is lying in a heap. In his mad rush he smashed against the door and killed himself."
There was a sigh of relief, and they rested until they had regained their composure. It was some time, however, before Helen raised herself and Whirlaway knew that she was fit to resume the journey.
Meanwhile he kept humming some words to himself thoughtfully.
"Are you composing another song?" asked Helen.
"Just a little elegy for the dinosaur," replied Whirlaway. "This is how it goes." And he sang aloud:
Alas for the Terrible Lizard!
He meant to have eaten to-day
A pair of innocent travellers
Who chanced to come his way;
But a kindly door flew open
And closed upon the twain,
And he lost not only a dinner
But a poor little blundering brain.
He might have lived for ages
Had he been a pacifist,
But he charged ahead like a battering ram—
He stopped suddenly. "I want another line to complete it," he said.
"What about this?" asked Helen:
"And he never will be missed."
"Capital!" cried Whirlaway. "Now let's sing it as a duet." So they sang together the Song of the Dinosaur.
"Did you notice the name above the door, and what was on the year-stone?" asked Helen.
"I'm sorry to say that I forgot all about them, but I'll open the door and see as there is nothing to fear now. You hold Tirri, for he might want to follow me."
Unlocking the door, he read CRETACEOUS above it, and on the year-stone THIRTY MILLION YEARS TO EOCENE.
"Cretaceous," said Whirlaway, "gets its name from the chalky nature of many of the deposits at this time. It's from a Latin word for chalk."
"This is beautiful," cried Helen as she gazed at the lovely blue sky and watched the fleecy clouds.
"The trees look much more like the ones at home. I can see some poplars, beeches, planes, and even willows."
A little stream babbled as it wound in and out the gingko trees. On its bank grew tall ferns and cycads. A soft breeze shook the flowering cycads and made their greenish petals fall gently into the stream below.
Hearing a splash, Helen was about to accuse Whirlaway of throwing stones when a large fish leaped out of a quiet pool at a May-fly, which flew hurriedly away.
Whirlaway was impatient to be off, so, keeping to the wooded banks, they hastened along.
Soon they saw some fig trees laden with fruit, and Whirlaway told Helen to pick some, thinking she might like it. Putting Tirri down, she pulled a fig, tasted it, and threw it away.
"I don't like them at all," she said in disgust, "they're too hard and bitter."
Flowering plum trees grew near by, so they hurried off to inspect them. Farther on were trees laden with big golden fruit.
"They look like oranges only they are much larger," said Helen, gazing up at them. "I do like oranges. I wish I could reach one just to taste it."
"You might be disappointed, just as you were with the figs," Whirlaway told her.
"Well, they couldn't be worse than the figs!" she answered him.
Just then down fell some of the fruit at her feet.
Looking up into the branches, she saw Tirri busily picking and dropping the golden fruit.
"You are a wise darling," she cried.
On picking up one of them, Helen found that it had a thick skin and was hard to peel. When she tasted it she found it bitter also, so she threw it away. Tirri climbed down, and Helen went forward to pet him, when to her surprise he avoided her and ran away.
"Well, I have never known Tirri to behave in that way before," she said in surprise. "He must be offended at something."
Helen caught Tirri, but he struggled so violently that she had to put him down.
Off he trotted with Helen after him.
Then the cause of his excitement was explained, for in front of them was a eucalyptus tree, into which Tirri climbed forthwith.
"You are not the only hungry one about here," Helen said to Tirri. "I wonder what that great creature can be," she cried suddenly, as she gazed at something half hidden by the trees. She strode off to investigate with Whirlaway in the rear.
"Oh, surely it is the dragon that St. George fought!" exclaimed Helen, peering timidly before her.
Whirlaway laughed aloud and the noise startled the beast. Standing on its hind legs with its back turned to the intruders, it moved its head round and gazed at them curiously. Helen stared once more at the double row of horny plates that were sticking straight out from its back and gasped:
"It Is a dragon!"
"No, no," interrupted Whirlaway a little impatiently, "that is POLACANTHUS. He is related to the very stupid Stegosaurus, the Roofed Crocodile, named from the projecting plates along his back. You remember him, don't you?"
"The one that was drinking by the river."
Looking up, Helen saw another horny-plated animal striding towards them.
"I think it is quite time we left," she said, stepping swiftly backwards.
Then she turned and hurried off.
Several large tortoise-like animals strayed across their path. After seeing the first one or two, Helen delighted in pointing out their rounded armoured backs among the undergrowth.
"Look, look," she cried. "What a queer-looking thing this is!"
"Queer is indeed the word for him. Go up to him; he will not hurt you."
Helen walked slowly round the strange animal, looking at it from all angles as it stood blinking in the sunshine.
"Why, he is protected even on his tail!" she said.
"Yes, and he needs it, because he is so slow. If anything attacks him he tucks himself under his armour and squats tightly on the ground. You can imagine that anything seventeen feet long and six feet across WOULD be hard to move. His name is SCOLOSAURUS—very hard to say I'll admit—and he is one of the most marvelously armoured animals. The 'scol' in Scolosaurus is from a Greek word meaning a thorn."
"You are a hard case," said Helen, as she picked up Tirri, tapped the armoured animal with her hand, and bade him good-bye.
"Quick! We shall have to hide," called Whirlaway, tugging Helen's skirt, and as they ran they could hear the heavy thud of approaching footsteps. Crouching in among some heavy ferns, Helen trembled, for her adventure with the dinosaur was still fresh in her mind.
"What is it?" she asked in a quavering voice.
"Sh-h-h! It is the terrible Rex I told you about, he is on his way!"
Nearer and nearer he came as he burst through the undergrowth, sending trees crashing to the ground on either side of him. Louder and louder came the thud of his huge feet until it sounded as if the Tyrant were right upon them.
Opening her eyes wide, Helen peeped through the ferns in horror, for, quite close at hand, she saw the monster Whirlaway had told her so much about. She could never have imagined anything quite so terrible as the hideous beast she gazed upon. She felt not only terror but hatred for the gigantic Rex.
As she gazed spellbound the ugly beast opened its cruel mouth and revealed huge brutal teeth. Its cold, hard eyes had an evil glint in them as they stared fixedly at something in front of it.
The thought of the queer creature with the heavy armour flashed through her mind as she watched Rex stride towards it on his tremendous three-toed feet.
"It will be all right," Whirlaway whispered when he saw Helen's pale, frightened face. "Peep just a little farther out this way and see for yourself."
With just one eye peeping out through an opening in the ferns Helen saw the huge, tortoise-like animal clamped fast to the ground and Rex nosing and clawing at it. How tiny the armoured animal looked beside the monster, who stood nineteen feet high and was forty-seven feet long! The armour proved too much for the Tyrant, who was enraged because he could not overturn his prey. He commenced pounding the dirt beneath his feet, and Helen, becoming more terrified than ever, turned to Whirlaway.
"Will it ever go away?" she asked, clutching tight hold of Tirri.
Whirlaway threw up his hands in a hopeless manner; he did not know. So they sat and waited with their hearts pounding till they heard the crash of breaking branches and they knew the fearsome beast had passed on.
Looking to her armoured friend, Helen saw him still clinging to the ground.
"He'll stay like that for some time just to be on the safe side," Whirlaway told her.
"Don't let us wait," cried Helen anxiously, "the monster might come back."
So they made their way through the trees. They had not gone far when, lying on the ground before them, they saw a Dragon of the Air.
"You poor thing!" said Helen as she stooped and picked it up. It fluttered in her arms and stared at her. It was obviously frightened.
"It has hurt its toes," remarked Whirlaway. "Put it on the ground and see what we can do for it."
They straightened out the hurt toes and it limped away into the undergrowth.
"Do you think it will get better?" asked Helen as she watched it.
"Yes, I think so. It must have been hurt by a branch that the Tyrant knocked down on his way. Look, there are his tracks," and Whirlaway pointed to the large footprints the monster had made.
Hurrying along, they listened carefully all the time for his heavy, dreaded footfall; but, to their great relief, there was no sound to indicate that he was pursuing them. Presently they found themselves near the sea.
Looking down on it from a ledge, Helen was thrilled with pleasure. On a closer inspection she found beautifully coloured shells that looked like reflections from Whirlaway's waistcoat. Beneath the clear blue water reefs of red coral sparkled in the sunshine.
"Oh, what a lovely place!" she cried in ecstasy, gazing down upon the yellow sand that was strewn thickly with shells.
"I am glad you like it," said Whirlaway, with his fingers placed boldly in the armholes of his waistcoat. "Can you see the sponges and sea-lilies among the coral?"
"Yes, but oh, do let us go down to the sand," cried Helen, who was longing to look more closely at everything.
"The shells are very elaborate," said Whirlaway as he jumped and skipped from one to another with leaps and bounds. "There are nautilus shells, and those ones that are twisted into little towers are called turralites."
"And this one?" cried Helen, sitting upon a huge shell as big as a cart-wheel, "what is it called?
"An ammonite—Cornu Ammonis, born of Jupiter Ammon, the great god Jupiter. Aren't they tremendous?"
"Yes, I never knew any shell could be so large."
"Hullo there!" cried Whirlaway, waving his cloak in the air.
Looking up, Helen saw a bird sitting on a rock near by.
"Another friend of yours?" she asked.
"Yes, that is Hesperornis, Bird of the Evening Star. He is a sea-bird. Come here," he called to it, and to Helen's amazement the bird waddled to them, making a pat, pat, pat with its webbed feet as it splashed through the shallow water.
"You're a very nice bird," she prattled as Hesperornis stood before her, "but you make me feel tiny. I have to look right up at you to see your funny pointed teeth."
There was a splash in the water beside them and out came a large turtle. It gazed at Helen inquisitively with its beady eyes.
"I seem to be causing a lot of excitement here," she remarked to Whirlaway. "Who is this curious monster?"
"He is a turtle, one that lives in the sea. A big fellow, isn't he?"
"Yes," agreed Helen as she stood up on a shell, "and inquisitive," for the turtle was edging nearer and nearer to her.
Hesperornis snapped up a little fish in his beak and adjusted it, preparatory to swallowing his prey. The turtle watched the procedure closely, and then, feeling hungry itself, disappeared into the water.
Walking back along the sand, Helen carried Tirri because he found it so hard to walk; his little feet seemed to slip back all the time and he could make hardly any progress.
"Whatever are those curious flying animals?" asked Helen, pointing.
"They are called Pterodactyls, the Finger-winged Ones. They are related to our friends the Dragons of the Air." Whirlaway explained that some of them used the ends of their tails as a rudder.
They left the sand and climbed up a cliff, where Helen turned and waved farewell to Hesperornis, who was standing on a rock watching them depart. On a ledge of the cliff in front of them was the most extraordinary of all the odd-shaped animals they had met with on their journey.
"Pteranodon," explained Whirlaway. "A most interesting fellow."
Helen walked slowly towards it, shading her eyes from the glaring sun with her hand.
"Whatever is it? I can't believe it is alive, because somehow it just doesn't look right."
It opened its toothless beak and closed it again. At the same time it flapped its great wings.
"I suppose it's a wonderful flier?"
"Well, no. He has a twenty-foot wing span, but he is a bad flier, although he goes far out to sea. He glides most of the time. He climbs up on the edge of a cliff like this, pushes himself off, and then he glides down."
"Is that really so, or are you only joking with me?" asked Helen as she looked once more at the monstrous creature.
"Joking! Not at all!" cried Whirlaway. "What's more, he steers himself by means of that top-knot sticking out from the back of his head. Just watch!"
He ran forward, flung his cape in the air, and shooed the winged monster. Launching itself off with its fore feet, it opened its wings and glided forward.
"There; what did I tell you?"
"I have to believe you," said Helen, gazing after it; "but I still think it's the funniest animal I have seen."
"He dives into the water and picks up fish. Look! There he goes now," cried Whirlaway.
Peering over the edge of the cliff, they gazed into the deep water, where they saw some large fish. Their bodies, fifty feet long, twisted and turned about like snakes.
"What horrible creatures! I am glad they are in the water."
"Yes, they are savage brutes. They are called Mosasaurus, lizards of the River Meuse, near the banks of which their remains are found. Watch that one," said Whirlaway, directing her attention to one that was darting at a very large fish. To her amazement it swallowed it!
"Mosasaurus, like a snake, can dislocate his jaws and thus swallow much larger fish than if his jaws were fixed."
"What a nightmare it is," she exclaimed as she watched the monster come up to the surface of the water. "Look at the ridges standing out from its back."
Leaving the cliffs they climbed a hill and were in the open country again.
On the banks of the lagoon into which the stream flowed they came on a large animal with a bill like a duck and with a ridge down its back.
"Why, here is old Trachodon, Mr. Rough Tooth, he is a sweet-tempered old fellow." And Whirlaway strode up to him. Helen, following, studied him with amusement and airily greeted him.
"Hullo, Mr. Duck Bill!" But Mr. Duck Bill merely swished his tail, he seemed to be intent on looking into the water before him.
"That's what he's watching," said Whirlaway, pointing to a huge crest sticking out of the water. Helen saw a weird-looking animal emerge. On its head it had a crest like the comb of a cock.
"What's that for?
"That's what he breathes with when under the water it is like a respirator. When he dives he can stay under for a long time because he can use up the air contained in it."
"That's a good idea. What is his name?"
"Corythosaurus (Helmet Reptile). Awful name, isn't it? But Mr. Duck Bill is even more peculiar."
Looking once more at Mr. Duck Bill, she remarked that she thought he was very funny from his bill to the tip of his tail, which, she added, must be a distance of thirty feet.
"You can't see the part I am going to tell you about," said Whirlaway, "for in that big bill are two thousand teeth!"
"Two THOUSAND!" exclaimed Helen.
"Yes, two thousand. He is so big that he must always be eating, so he wears out set after set of teeth, As soon as one row is worn down he starts chewing on the next!"
The animal moved to some rushes and, bending his head, tore up a mouthful and commenced to munch.
"You would think he was doing that just to prove that what you said was quite right," remarked Helen.
Several more animals with the peculiar crest on their heads appeared. They sank beneath the water now and again in search of food.
"They must have to eat a very great deal," remarked Helen.
She felt weary, so she sat upon a large stone and put Tirri down. "Let us rest for a while. I am tired after that climb."
As they sat there in the warm sunshine Helen began to feel sleepy, and she was nodding her head when Whirlaway roused her with a loud call. She sat up and looked about her in alarm.
"How graceful," she cried, for walking towards them was the shapeliest creature she had yet seen.
It came up to them and stood there nodding its head as if saying "Good day!"
"You are graceful," repeated Helen, inspecting its long, slender neck and tail. She liked the dainty way it held its little hands close to its side.
"Struthiomimus is his name," said Whirlaway, "Ostrich Mimic. He lives on fruit and berries and can run very quickly."
The animal continued nodding its head at Helen until she burst out laughing. "Does it REALLY know what we are saying?" she asked.
"No, its nod means nothing intelligent. You see, its name means Ostrich Mimic; it likes to pretend it is a bird, and walks about all day long nodding its head. Oh, look who's coming," he added, pointing to a Dragon of the Air that was skimming towards them. It alighted, a little breathless, on the ground and walked up to them.
"That is the one we helped when it hurt its foot," cried Whirlaway, full of solicitude.
"So it is. Look at the way it is holding its foot up to show us it is better," said Helen.
"It really seems grateful," replied Whirlaway; "but we must hurry off."
Having said good-bye to Struthiomimus and the Dragon of the Air, they had not gone far when, hearing the flapping of wings above their heads, they were surprised to see the friendly Dragon.
"I wonder what he wants," said Whirlaway. "Perhaps he is trying to warn us of some danger." Standing still, they heard the dreaded sound of heavy footsteps. "Rex!" he cried, and they ran to hide themselves as best they could.
The friendly dragon perched on a tree near them and seemed content that they were out of sight. Suddenly they heard the swish of moving feet, and looking through a peep-hole, they saw a beautiful Struthiomimus running away at a terrific speed, its powerful legs looking as if they would never tire.
Clearer and clearer came the heavy thud of the relentless Rex, and very soon he, too, passed them. His tremendous feet flung up great clods of earth as he sped on.
Down fluttered the Dragon of the Air and waddled up to them as if to say: "Now I have repaid you."
"What a fussy little thing you are!" remarked Helen. "I am going to call you Mrs. Hurryalong."
"You have a talent, Helen," said Whirlaway with a smile, "for finding fit names."
Mrs. Hurryalong seemed glad and continued to follow them.
"We need not be frightened now," said Helen, "for she will warn us when Rex is coming."
The forest was alive with unusual-looking beasts, some of which they had already seen. Whirlaway pointed out flowering magnolias and more fruit trees. The tree life resembled that with which Helen was familiar.
A terrific snort frightened them, and, as she jumped, she looked at Whirlaway to see if they should run. Peering through the trees, he told her not to be afraid, for, though the monster looked fierce, it was really quite harmless.
Wondering what she would see, Helen quickly pushed her way through the undergrowth. To her amazement, she caught sight of a great beast with the most elaborately decorated head she had yet seen.
"Pardon my intrusion," she said, bowing to her new acquaintance, "but I should like to look closely at you, for you are so very, very strange."
The monster's great skull jutted back far over its neck and turned up like an Elizabethan collar, and above its horny beak was a spike with two sharp horns adjoining its forehead.
"You seem to have all the protection about the head," said Helen.
"Triceratops is his name, and it means Three-Horned Face," said Whirlaway, "He is really very stupid, having a tiny brain in that huge, bony old head of his."
"Of course," cried Helen. "I wondered why he did not take much notice of me."
Then suddenly the monster switched his tail and nearly sent Tirri flying.
"Why is he doing that?" asked Helen.
Whirlaway told her that he really could not help it. "It is more or less a habit with him," he said, "and he is not always responsible for what his tail does, because he has a nerve in his backbone that switches it."
"Poor old thing. If he can't help himself I am sorry for him."
"That is not the sorry part about Triceratops," said Whirlaway. "He is in great trouble, his head having become so large that he can barely lift it from the ground." And the little minstrel began to sing:
There was once a mighty monster,
Whose length was twenty feet;
So you can easily understand
What a dinner he used to eat.
It wore two horns upon its brow
And one above its snout;
Its head was very heavy
For his legs to lug about.
It had a frilly collar
That rose behind its skull;
Its brain was very little,
And its mind was very dull.
Just as if Triceratops meant to prove Whirlaway wrong, he lifted his head and flung back his ornate collar.
"Oh, doesn't he look different when it's flat against his back?" cried Helen. She saw it for only a second, then the animal dropped his head again and down it went.
"Farewell, Triceratops," said Helen, "we have to leave you now," and on they went.
Walking through some long grass, which was the first Helen had seen on the journey, they suddenly got another warning from Mrs. Hurryalong. Down she swooped, flapping her wings noisily.
They lay flat down among the grass, and, with her head against the ground, Helen could hear the thud of the well-known footsteps of Rex. How terrible they sounded! Louder and louder they came, and then suddenly stopped. Where was he? What was he doing? A frightful bellowing noise echoed through the forest, and Helen knew that the monster had this time caught his prey.
Screaming, she jumped to her feet.
"A snake!" she cried, and Whirlaway was just in time to see a small snake disappearing through the grass.
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "It is one of the first snakes and is not venomous."
"I was not to know that," said Helen, "and it DID give me a fright. Oh, but look up there; Mrs. Hurryalong seems very much upset about something. She is flying round and round in circles and flapping her wings."
"Yes, there is something the matter," replied Whirlaway, looking at the winged creature as it flew a short distance away and then hurried back to them.
"I gave her a good name, didn't I?" said Helen. "She is a little hurryalong."
"Yes," replied Whirlaway thoughtfully, "I think the little lady wants us to follow her. Come, let us see what is the matter."
"Another Triceratops," cried Helen, "and the huge collar is lying back along its head."
"Look just on the ground beside you," cried Whirlaway, waving his cloak in the air. "It's wonderful!"
"Eggs!" cried Helen, and, just as if she did not believe Whirlaway, she bent down and tapped one of them with her hand. All at once she sprang back in alarm screaming. "It moved! I felt it!"
Just at this minute it so happened that one of the baby Triceratops decided to hatch out. Pushing its head and one leg through the egg, it peered about, blinking its goggle eyes in such a curious manner that Helen could not help laughing.
"Funny little creature, isn't he?" said Whirlaway. "See the grin on his face. I do believe he is enjoying the joke, too."
"I shouldn't be surprised," laughed Helen. "That knowing little eye wouldn't miss much."
"If it is a knowing eye you are wanting just look above you at big Triceratops. Never did I see such a glint in any eye."
"Perhaps she is annoyed with us for intruding, and we should not have disturbed the eggs," said Helen meekly.
"Oh, no, not at all. They don't care a bit. After laying their eggs in a warm place like this they leave them to hatch in the sun."
"Then this poor little fellow will have to take care of himself? asked Helen.
"Yes, and he will manage it quite well. But we cannot wait to see him grow up, so say good-bye to both the big and the little Triceratops, and let us be off."
"I AM glad we followed Mrs. Hurryalong," said Helen, as they strode off. Taking one last peep over her shoulder and seeing the quaint little animal struggling half in and half out of its huge egg-shell, she commenced to laugh again. "I wouldn't have missed the sight of that little fellow for anything."
"It was amusing," agreed Whirlaway. "Do you know there are hundreds of crocodiles in the rivers here, and then of course there is the terrible Rex, as well as many more brutes of his kind."
"I hate Rex more and more as we go along," said Helen, very emphatically. "Oh, but look here in front of us," she added, her voice changing to surprise. "This one is like silly old Triceratops."
"Only the spikes stick straight out from the top of its collar," said Whirlaway as he pointed to the six large spikes that reared themselves like horns, "and his name is Styracosaurus, a name that means Shrubby Lizard. He looks like a branching shrub."
The animal did not seem pleased to see them, for, turning, it hurried through some near-by trees. So they continued on their way.
Hearing something eating, they investigated. They found a large animal very like poor old Thumbs-up, only without the spikes on his hand, sitting up on its tail, and eating away at the leaves of a tree.
"He is called Claosaurus, the Breaker, and is related to Thumbs-up," replied Whirlaway. "He seems greatly interested in his dinner so we shall not disturb him."
Coming out into a clearing, they looked over great rolling plains of green grass stretching for miles before them. Here and there the scene was brightened with flowering plum trees and the creamy-white blossoms of tall magnolias.
"There are some juniper berries," said Helen. "I know them."
"That is right, and those over there are poisonous," said Whirlaway. "They have caused the deaths of many of the animals you have met."
"I wish that beast of a Rex would eat some of them," cried Helen, "but I know that is useless, for he does not eat berries."
"Don't worry too much about him. If we are lucky we shall not see him any more," said Whirlaway. But he had no sooner spoken than they heard a terrific clash echoing through the air.
"Is that Rex?" asked Helen, looking about her for some place to hide.
"No! Follow me and we'll see," replied her friend.
Louder and louder came the clashing of horns and the heavy breathing of huge animals as they fought. "We shall have to go this way," said Whirlaway as he led the way towards a small hill, and, looking down, Helen saw a battle of giants. Styracosaurus and another of his kind were engaged in a fight to the death.
On they battled, and, because they were both huge and clumsy animals, the fight was slow and ponderous. Charging at each other, they butted each other with all their might, making the clashing noise she had heard.
"They often have long fights like this," Whirlaway explained. "The victim becomes an easy prey for Rex."
"I am afraid one of them is going to be badly beaten," said Helen, as she watched the fighting animals charging at each other. So intent was she to see if one would be sorely hurt that she did not notice the great lumbering giant Rex appear and stand gloating over the fighting animals.
"Look," said Whirlaway, pointing to him. "I thought he would come on the scene."
"Oh!" cried Helen, "and see, one of them is down!"
With a terrible gash in his leg, the loser was down on one knee, bellowing with agony. The victor, seeing Rex, lumbered heavily away, leaving the other to his mercy. From their hiding-place they saw Rex approach with great strides towards the injured animal. Nearer and nearer he came, his mouth half open, showing his cruel teeth.
"Oh, the poor thing won't have a chance!" cried Helen.
"I do not know. There is just one happening that may save him," answered Whirlaway, watching closely as the monster approached. "Yes, I think he will be saved."
"What is it?" asked Helen as she gazed spellbound at the terrible scene. But Whirlaway did not have to answer her, for just as Rex was upon his victim he floundered, and about his legs oozed mud.
Down, down, down he sank, fighting, struggling, bellowing. But it was all in vain for the terrible Rex was bogged.
"That is what I thought would happen," cried Whirlaway "You see, in his haste he did not look where he was walking, and the ground down there is very boggy. He is so heavy he will soon be out of sight."
Only the head and shoulders of the monster were now to be seen, and, as they watched, he sank out of sight. Slimy, quivering mud was the only thing left to mark the place where he had once been.
Walking down to the wounded animal, and keeping carefully free from bogs, they found he was not very badly injured, and in time his leg would mend.
After waving farewell to him the adventurous trio made their way towards the door.
Whirlaway reminded Helen that the Cretaceous period ended the Mesozoic era, and that with the death of Tyrannosaurus Rex (the Tyrant King) the last of the carnivorous dinosaurs, the long reign of gigantic reptiles had come to an end, and that they had disappeared from the face of the earth for ever.
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive."
Helen read on the year-stone THIRTY-FOUR MILLION YEARS TO OLIGOCENE, and written above the door was the word EOCENE.
"Has this name Eocene anything to do with dawn?" asked Helen. "I remember we were reading Kinglake's Eothen at school and our teacher told us eos was the Greek word for dawn."
"In a sense you are right," answered Whirlaway, "for, just as the dawn lights up the sky and wakens everything in the most glorious way, so does this period herald a far more wonderful world. As we go on you will see the marvellous progress made both in plant and in animal life."
"How interesting it will be!" cried Helen, "and I shan't make a mistake with the key this time."
Taking the green key, she turned it in the lock and flung the door wide open.
"Birds! This is the first time I have heard them singing," she exclaimed, standing perfectly still, enthralled with their sweet notes.
"That one is a Protornis, a kind of lark," said Whirlaway. "There goes one hurrying across the blue sky. Their cheerful songs will brighten our journey."
"Isn't it wonderful to think that they sang to one another long before little girls and boys were on the earth to hear them?" said Helen in thoughtful tones.
"Yes," he replied, "I think you might put it in this way." And he himself broke into song:
All songs of man, whether grave or gay,
Are younger than those of the birds,
For they sang in the dawn of a manless day
Melodies sweeter than words.
Man, proud man, in his arrogance deems
Their songs are for his delight,
And not for their mates and the bright sunbeams
And the moon and the stars by night.
He cages the birds till their life is done,
He sells them as slaves in the mart,
He slays them with poison and arrow and gun
In the wickedness of his heart.
Yet still the birds will their songs outpour,
As in Eocene ages past,
Till slaughter and slavery reign no more,
And Love shall be Lord at last.
"How beautiful, Whirlaway! I hope you are right," she said. "I am sick of the cruelty we have seen—one savage creature preying on another. But this is just the sort of way to enjoy a walk," she continued more cheerfully. "And look what beautiful scenery!"
"Let us go to the top of that mountain," said Whirlaway. "We shall get a wonderful view. You had better carry Tirri, Helen, because he might dawdle on the way, climbing about in the branches."
Presently they came to the side of a mountain down which flowed a rapid stream, winding in and out amongst the trees. At the foot was a large sheet of water which glistened in the sunshine. A herd of extraordinary animals browsed on the succulent vegetation. Under the shade of a tall tree one of the larger beasts stood switching its tail.
"What a funny-looking creature!" exclaimed Helen.
It had no fewer than six horns on its stupid-looking head, and two dagger-shaped tusks projected from its upper jaw.
"What is its name?
"Tinoceras ingens," answered Whirlaway, "a name that means huge creature with an apology for horns. Although it is quite massive and twelve feet in length, it is very dull and slow in its movements. Look at those two over there having an argument. We must hurry, and leave them to settle it for themselves."
On reaching the top of the mountain, after a long but very pleasant climb, Whirlaway told Helen that the great EOCENE lake which she saw at the foot had at one time been a portion of the Cretaceous Sea; but, through the elevation of the ground on which they stood, had been cut off and was now fresh water. "On the other side you will see the ocean stretching away in the distance,"
"Oh, look!" exclaimed Helen, "there is something moving on the seashore. They look like people. Are they, Whirlaway?"
"No, they are penguins," replied Whirlaway.
"Do let us go down and see them," she begged. "I love the quaint way they waddle up and down."
"I'm sorry, Helen, but we really must not waste any more time."
So, picking up Tirri, who had been amusing himself quite contentedly, Helen followed Whirlaway down past the great lake, where numerous animals came to drink. He told her that the silt and mud washed down when the rivers were in flood had made the banks treacherous, and often these heavy creatures got bogged. That was why so many well-preserved remains would be found millions of years later. As they made their way through the long grass and scrub they heard several animals moving quite close to them.
"Listen," said Whirlaway. "Whatever they are, there must be a herd of them, so we shall wait and see."
"It's a relief to think those terrible dinosaurs have gone for ever," said Helen.
"Yes but we must remember there are still some very fierce animals, so we must always be careful."
Placing Tirri on a tuft beside her, Helen, with Whirlaway, sat down on a mound surrounded by tall grass.
Very soon out came some quaint little animals about three feet high.
Whirlaway, peering through the grass, asked Helen what they were like.
Before she could answer him one of them wandered up to them, looking very inquisitive and not in the least frightened.
"You look very like a baby elephant," said Helen, addressing the curious one, "or rather you would if you had a trunk."
"You are right," exclaimed Whirlaway, laughing. "He is half an elephant and half a sea-cow, and is known as Moeritherium. He is full grown."
"How did elephants get their trunks?" asked Helen.
"Well, as we go on you will see the different stages they pass through, and by the time we come to the last one you will have quite a good idea. Look, he is following us. He is very inquisitive."
Said Helen: "I am going to call him Paul Pry. I believe he got his trunk through always pushing his nose into other people's business."
Coming out of the long grass, Whirlaway told Helen to look at some little animals about ten inches high as they scampered past. "They are the ancestors of the horse you know so well. Their name is Eohippus, which means the Dawn Horse. They have four little toes on the front feet and three on the hind ones. Later, as you know, a hoof formed, which you will see develop as we go on. They ran such a lot on their toes that the middle one developed more and more until at last the nail grew into a very strong hoof."
"Oh," cried Helen suddenly, "where is Tirri?"
Rushing back along the way they had come, they found him perched in a tree.
"What are you doing up there?" Helen called. "Come down at once, sir." But, to their surprise, Tirri would not move.
"What can be the matter with him?" Whirlaway asked after they had tried their best to persuade the solemn little koala to descend.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Helen, looking up longingly at her precious little pet; "but we simply can't go without him."
"Ah! I see the reason," cried Whirlaway. "Don't make a noise, but just look at the 'possum sitting right out on the far end of that branch, with its young one on its back."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Helen. "Tirri has found one of his relations."
Calling again to Tirri, Helen was pleased to see Tirri come slowly down to her, so she picked him up again.
As they hurried along they heard the sound of a waterfall and, feeling thirsty, Helen suggested that they should go in search of it.
"What a pretty place!" she cried, catching sight of a little stream threading its way past rocks and banks of moss and fern. "And there is little Paul Pry having a drink. Oh! but look at that bird standing beside him! What a monster!"
As she ran towardsb the water Helen disturbed some of the little Eohippus creatures. Throwing up their alert little heads they galloped briskly away.
"But whatever is that bird?" she asked, pointing across the little pool. "He is a bird monster."
"That is a Diatryma, a kind of early ostrich, and, as you say, he is indeed a monster, for he is quite seven feet high."
"Yes, and if other animals interfere with him he beats them with that sharp bill and splits their heads. He can run very quickly, too."
Helen had a drink of water from the clear, fresh little pool and they hurried on their way; but they had not gone far before an ugly, flat-footed creature pushed its way slowly through the trees in front of them.
"He is rather cumbersome and cannot move very quickly because he walks flat-footed like a bear," said Whirlaway as they hurried on. "His name is Coryphodon, Mr. Tooth Head, and he has the smallest of brains. His kind did not last very long in the world's history."
"Just as well perhaps," said Helen.
Hearing a strange grunting noise, Helen stood quite still and listened, when suddenly out rushed six little pigs no bigger than rabbits.
"Baby piggies!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands.
"Not babies!" Whirlaway corrected her. "They are full grown; they are the ancestors of those you are thinking of. Before they reach the stage when you know them they will go through many changes. Later we shall see some almost as big as oxen. Horrible-looking things, with enormous tusks!"
"Grunt, grunt, grunt!" went the little animals as they poked and rooted about amongst the undergrowth.
"Here are some little wild turkeys," Whirlaway called to her, and she was just in time to see the disappearing form of Mother Turkey as she scuttled after her precious chicks.
"They seem to be leading their poor mother a dance," said Helen, laughing at the runaway chicks.
"Perhaps they don't realize what a good mother they have," Whirlaway told her as they hurried on. "These wild turkeys build nests, not very elaborate ones, but they sit upon their eggs until they hatch. Then they feed and look after their little ones until they are old enough to care for themselves."
Looking up, Helen saw a huge falcon circling around, waiting for an opportunity to seize the baby turkeys, and she understood why Mother Turkey had been anxious to get her young ones under cover.
As they walked idly along the pretty banks of a stream they suddenly came upon several curious-looking creatures. These were somewhat like bears, except that they had long tails.
"They are called Credonts, and they are out hunting. They prey on other animals," Whirlaway explained.
Helen was just going to hurry away when, hearing a sharp rustle in the undergrowth near by, she stood still and watched carefully. Very soon out came a timid opossum with a wee baby peeping from its pouch. It did not stay long, for, seeing the strangers, it darted back into hiding again.
"The mammals are still very small," Whirlaway explained as they went on, "but they are progressing slowly but surely."
"I know what that is!" cried Helen as they heard a croak, croak, croak coming from the river. Running down to the bank, she found a real little frog squatting on a large flat stone.
"Oh, you dear little thing!" she cried, addressing the now silent and staring one. "Fancy meeting you here! You remind me of home."
But Froggie knew nothing of home and little girls, so he rudely dived into the river with a loud plomp and disappeared.
As Helen went back to Whirlaway she was surprised to hear him talking. She came upon him in the middle of a long conversation, with whom do you think? Could it be Paul Pry?
"Good gracious, how you have altered!" she remarked. "Your nose has grown more than two feet since I saw you last." Shaking with laughter, Helen stood with her hands on her hips and surveyed the creature as it stood looking at her with its long under-jaw supporting its long nose.
"You know you really shouldn't be inquisitive," said Helen, "for what on earth will happen to you if your nose grows much longer? You won't be able to balance it."
Seeming to take this little remark as an insult, the animal turned its back to her and walked away.
They had not gone far when a little strangely-shaped quadruped got up right in front of them. It was about the size of a baby lamb.
"That's a Protylopus, an early camel," said Whirlaway. "Later, as we shall see, it develops into the camel that you know so well."
"I should never have guessed that," said Helen.
"I think we should keep more to the right," said Whirlaway. "You remember the chart in the book showed all the doors on the right."
"Yes, I remember," replied Helen. As they passed under the trees she was surprised to hear something moving in the high branches. "Whatever are these quaint little animals, Whirlaway?
"They are called Anaptomore. They are very interesting. Look at their big eyes. You may have seen at the Zoo the little animals called Tarsius, found in Brazil. He is a close relation."
Hurrying on, they saw a door showing clearly in the distance. On reaching it, they suddenly stopped and looked, for perched on a bare limb of an oak tree right in front of them were two owls, nestling close to each other.
"We shall have to close the door softly as we go through," said Helen. "I'd hate to think we disturbed their sleep, because they look so cosy."
"Now, now, Tirri, you must not get so excited. We shall soon open the door," said Whirlaway.
"Nothing on earth endures but change."
"The year-stone has EIGHT MILLION YEARS TO MIOCENE," said Helen. "But what is the meaning of OLIGOCENE?"
"OLIGOCENE means few and recent," remarked Whirlaway.
She opened the door with Oligocene above it. But she shut it again quickly for the rain was coming down in torrents.
"Let us wait under the arch of the doorway until it stops," suggested Whirlaway.
The rain did not last very long, and the sun soon came out; but the air was moist and steamy. The outlook reminded Helen of the Carboniferous Period; but, as she gazed at the country, it appeared very different, for there were now many beech and oak trees and no horse-tails could be seen.
Perching Tirri on her shoulder, Helen walked along under the trees, the fallen leaves rustling beneath her feet.
Whirlaway strode ahead, keeping a sharp look-out amongst the undergrowth.
Suddenly motioning to Helen to hide herself, he dropped on his knees amongst some ferns.
Helen stood still in horror, for crouching behind some bushes was the most terrible animal they had yet seen.
"Hush," whispered Whirlaway, "that is Machaerodus, the great sabre-toothed cat, the Fighter, one of the fiercest and most agile animals that ever lived."
It was somewhat like a big cat, only as large as a tiger. It had the most terrible teeth imaginable. A huge tusk, nearly a foot long, projected over either side of its wide jaws.
Helen shuddered as she looked at them.
"It's a good thing that the wind is blowing away from us or he might get our scent," said Whirlaway.
Helen watched its great tail moving from side to side as it waited eagerly to spring upon its prey.
"What is it watching?" asked Helen in a terrified whisper.
"Listen!" said Whirlaway. "Do you hear some animals grunting and snorting? They are huge pigs."
"They must be," murmured Helen.
Nearer and nearer came the lumbering brutes, some with long tusks that flashed in the sunlight.
One sniffed the breeze with his snout uplifted, his bristles standing erect along his gristly neck.
Then, uttering a piercing squeal, he turned and dashed away as the great cat sprang into the air and tore after him.
"What a terrible brute!" said Helen with a sigh of relief. "I'm glad," she continued, "that he frightened those awful pigs away."
"Yes," said Whirlaway, "they are nearly as bad. But let us get away before any more appear."
"I wonder," said Helen, thoughtfully, "if the sabre-toothed cat ever thinks what a monster of wickedness he is."
"Probably not," replied Whirlaway. "He follows his instincts. Perhaps, if he did think, it might be something like this." And he sang a rather grim little song to her.
On all the weaker beasts
I work my sovereign will;
Their flesh supplies my feasts;
My glory is to kill.
With claws and teeth that rend,
With eyes that pierce the gloom,
I follow to the end
My duty and my doom.
For I shall meet one day
A beast of greater might,
And, if I cannot slay,
I'll die in rapturous fight.
"What a dreadful thing is war!" said Helen.
"It will pass," replied Whirlaway, "like all other dreadful things. The good alone will survive."
They had not gone very far when Helen gave a little shout of delight as she darted forward. "Look, Whirlaway, a butterfly! The very first I have seen."
As Helen watched it flapping its pale blue wings, it settled on a fern.
"Oh, you little beauty!" she cried.
Whirlaway flapped his coat, and up rose some brown and tortoise-shell ones and flitted in and out amongst the ferns. Presently out from the undergrowth dashed two little timid spotted deer. They halted for a second, twitching their sensitive ears backwards and forwards, then bounded out of sight.
"I wish you were not in such a hurry as I should like to have had a better look at you. Did you see them, Whirlaway?" she asked.
"Yes, they were not more than two feet high and covered with spots. They are some of the first little deer. Later we shall see them with beautiful horns."
As they walked down to the banks of a stream that wound like a silver thread for miles among the pretty foliage, they heard a noise in the undergrowth, and out dashed a mob of little dawn horses. They were now about the size of sheep.
"They will get away safely, no matter what it was that disturbed them, as they are much faster now. They have only three toes instead of four on the front feet as they had when we saw them in the last period," explained Whirlaway.
"I am glad they will escape, for I love the little horses," said Helen.
"Hush!" exclaimed Whirlaway, motioning to Helen to keep quiet, and out from some rushes glided a small dark glossy-skinned animal which looked like a seal.
"That is an otter," said Whirlaway. "He lives on fish."
Just as he spoke it glided silently into the water.
"Let us sit on the bank for a little," said Helen. "Perhaps we shall see something else." So they sat down while Tirri climbed about among the trees.
Soon there was a slight rustle among the fallen leaves, and, turning round, they saw a small hedgehog crawling towards them, his long spiky bristles standing erect.
They sat very still watching it for some time.
Helen was just going to say something about it to Whirlaway when, on looking up, she shrank back in horror.
Glaring at them from behind a bush was the terrible Sabre-Toothed Cat. Its huge jaws opened wider and wider, showing its threatening teeth.
Realizing that to run away was hopeless, Whirlaway motioned to Helen to keep perfectly still.
Slowly but eagerly it gathered itself together in readiness to spring upon them, when suddenly an even bigger cat hurled itself through the air and seized it by the back of the neck.
Snarling at each other and scratching with their great claws, they fought savagely, each striving to drive its huge teeth into his enemy.
Quickly Whirlaway motioned to Helen and they stole quietly away, leaving the great sabre-toothed tigers fighting desperately.
"We shall be all right now," said Whirlaway, after they had gone a little way. "Those sabre-toothed cats are savage fighters, and one of them is sure to be killed, while the other will be too badly injured to bother about following us."
Suddenly Helen put her hands to her face, which had gone quite white. "Oh!" she cried, "poor Tirri! He will be killed. I am going back!"
"You can't do that," said Whirlaway, grasping her skirt, "they will kill you!"
"But I must! I can't leave Tirri!"
Suddenly they heard a noise in the trees above. Looking up, they caught sight of Tirri climbing hurriedly towards them. Helen almost cried with joy when she saw him, and he was soon safe in her arms again.
He had seen the fight and, when they left, had followed them by climbing from branch to branch overhead.
Walking hurriedly on, they heard a crunching as of some animal eating. Suddenly they came upon one of the Paul Pry family.
"Dear old Paul Pry!" said Helen. "How he is growing! He must be five feet high, and his nose is longer than ever."
The animal, as if resenting the mention of his nose, turned and walked away, swinging his trunk as he went.
"Paul Pry is now called Palaeaomastodon, an ancestor of the elephants. Did you not notice how tall and straight his legs have become, and what a long lower jaw he has?" asked Whirlaway.
"Yes, I noticed a big difference," said Helen.
As they made their way past some water-holes Helen remarked that many of them were drying up, that the land was getting parched, and that the long grass looked withered.
"What is that noise I hear in the distance? It sounds like a pack of wolves hunting their prey. Oh! I DO hope they won't come near us," cried Helen.
"We shall probably see them from the top of yonder hill. Let us hurry so that we can find out in which direction they are going," replied Whirlaway.
Presently they got a view of a large rhinoceros-like animal being attacked by two small carnivorous ones. "That is Arsinoitherium with the four horns, and the animals attacking it are Pterodonts. Their name means Wing Tooth," said Whirlaway.
Helen suddenly stopped and pointed. "Tell me, Whirlaway, is that an animal's head towering above those trees over there in the distance or am I just imagining it?"
"It is an animal's head sure enough," he replied, smiling.
"I can hardly believe it, because those trees must be quite twenty feet high, and you told me that all the dinosaurs had gone for ever."
"So they have, and this creature, although so large, is quite harmless."
"Is it really as big as it looks?" asked Helen as she gazed away in the distance at the great head moving above the trees.
"Yes, quite," he replied. "Shall we go and make a closer inspection?"
"Oh, do! I should like to know how large its body is," she said.
Soon her astonishment increased, for before her was one of the biggest animals in the world. It was twice as big as the largest elephant she had ever seen in a Zoo, and her eyes grew wide with wonder.
"He needs five hundred pounds of food every day," said Whirlaway as they watched the monster eating away at the leaves of a tree.
"Oh, now I remember," cried Helen. "There was a drawing of him in that book, but I did not believe such a creature ever existed any more than I believed about Diplodocus. It said he was called after a place something like Bal-Baluchistan, and his name, I think, was Baluchitherium. Is that right?"
"You can't talk about any name being long after that one," said Whirlaway. "You managed it very well though," he added, laughing; "that is his right name. His remains are found by modern scientists in Baluchistan."
"Good-bye, good-bye," called Helen as she waved farewell to the monster. Looking round, after they had gone some distance, she could still see the animal feeding.
"Look who's coming," cried Whirlaway, and Helen cried out in amazement, for walking towards them was a huge bird at least eight feet high.
"I don't like the look of it at all," said Helen, clasping Tirri tightly as she caught sight of its huge curved bill. Its legs were slender, and it could not fly, for its wings were very small. Neither could it run very quickly, but it was alert, and its hooked beak was a wonderful weapon.
"It eats whatever it can catch, and is very cruel," said Whirlaway as the bird disappeared behind some trees. "Its name is Phororhacos."
"Look, there is the next door," cried Helen. "Let's hurry!"
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
—C. F. Alexander.
"MIOCENE!" exclaimed Helen. "What does that mean?"
"It comes," said Whirlaway, "from two Greek words meaning less and recent."
"The year-stone says TWELVE MILLION YEARS TO PLIOCENE," she said as she unlocked the door with the red key. "I wonder what we shall see," she added.
"Something very beautiful," said Whirlaway as he pulled the door open.
Flinging up her hands, Helen gave a cry of delight. "Flowers! Why, I am surprised."
"Yes," interrupted Whirlaway. "You have not seen them for so long that you had almost forgotten them."
Helen nodded her head as she gazed around her.
Wild roses and clematis climbed around the door, and sweet-scented violets grew along the shaded banks.
"So there were flowers on the Earth, too, as well as birds, before there were human beings. I always thought flowers were made for people," she remarked.
"Not for people, but for insects," he replied. "But that is a strange story which you will understand by and by. The partnership of flowers and insects is one of the most wonderful things in Nature,"
Many butterflies, some blue and others tinted like tortoise-shell, were on the wing as Helen walked among the bright flowers. She felt she wanted to cry out in answer to the little birds that sang so joyfully in the trees near by.
"Come on," cried Whirlaway. "We must not linger any longer here, although it is so beautiful."
Tirri scampered ahead, pleased to have his freedom.
Poppies pushed their scarlet heads out from among the long grass, while heather spread a purple tinge over the hills. Down on the open plains below herds of wild deer fed on the long dry grass. Some of them had spirally twisted horns, others had them long and simply curved.
As Helen watched them she thought how peaceful and lovely it was compared to the Mesozoic times with the terrible dinosaurs.
Farther on, they came to the muddy banks of a lagoon, beside some blue irises. Helen saw a heron standing on one leg, dozing in the sunshine.
They could distinctly hear the sad and plaintive cry of the curlew as it circled round and round, flying low over the open moor.
"Oh," said Helen as she settled Tirri more comfortably on her other shoulder, "I have often heard that cry at home. Curlews must alter very slowly."
"Very," said Whirlaway. "But here is an interesting little animal that did alter. He used to live on the ground, but later he climbed into the trees both to get away from his enemies and to feed on the leaves."
"See," said Helen, "he is hanging downwards with his clawed feet above him instead of beneath him. I am sure he can't be comfortable."
"Oh, yes, he is perfectly comfortable, he always hangs that way. It is a kind of sloth. I am glad we happened to come upon him."
"Why are you glad?" asked Helen.
"I shall tell you as we walk along," he replied, "so as not to disturb him."
"The race-history of Mr. Sloth," began Whirlaway, "is interesting. Let us try to look back on it as if we were in modern times. We shall find that he started to grow and couldn't stop. Bigger and bigger he became until at last he grew so big that he couldn't possibly live in a tree. There wasn't one big enough to hold him for one thing, and for another, Mr. Sloth had got past the stage when he could climb."
"How strange!" cried Helen, "somewhat like poor old Triceratops, whose head got so big."
"Yes, but Mr. Sloth had no intention of starving, so he used to balance on his hind legs, using his tail as a support, and pull the branches of trees towards him. Still he continued to grow until he was too big. He grew too lazy even to stand up and feed; he used to give one mighty push and send a tree crashing to the ground."
"So that he could eat in comfort," added Helen, laughing. "I do hope we shall meet him when he grows to that size."
"The sloth family will not continue to grow in bulk through the ages," said Whirlaway. "They will dwindle to the size of those you saw at the Zoo. Time brings many changes."
"Look at this funny creature coming towards us," said Whirlaway, and glancing up, Helen was amazed to see an animal about six feet high, somewhat like a horse, approaching them. It walked in a very curious manner because its front legs were much longer than its hind ones.
"I play a game at home called 'Funny Animals,'" said Helen, addressing the stranger. "I get a strip of paper, draw a funny head of an animal, fold the paper over, and then pass it on to someone else to draw the body. When we have done this we fold it over and someone else draws the legs. I have seen some strange animals drawn this way, but not anything so funny as you."
"His legs are certainly odd-looking," agreed Whirlaway, "especially with the long claws at the ends of the toes. He uses them to dig about among the undergrowth for food, so you need never be afraid of Moropus, for that is his name. It means the One with the Foolish Feet. You could call him Mr. Funny-feet if you wished."
The farther they went the drier the country looked.
"There has not been any rain for a very long time," said Whirlaway. "Even the lagoons and rivers are drying up."
As they crossed the parched plains they saw several large animals moving in the distance.
"Are they camels?" asked Helen.
"Yes," answered Whirlaway, "they are descended from the Protylopus, which was the original ancestor of all camels. You remember the little animals about the size of a baby lamb we saw in the Eocene Period."
"Yes, I remember; but how they have altered!"
"The modern camel, of the type you saw at the Zoo," continued Whirlaway, "is especially adapted for the dry, sandy country in which it lives. Its feet are flat and spreading, so that they do not sink into the sand. It has special provision for storing water inside it, so it can go a long time without a drink."
"I know that," said Helen.
"Well, do you know what its hump is for?" asked Whirlaway.
"No, I don't; but it can't be for beauty."
"It's really the camel's larder, where it stores enough fat to last it for many days when food is scarce. If you saw it after a long journey over the desert its hump would be much smaller."
"And, when he got there, his cupboard was bare," misquoted Helen.
"But that is not all," continued Whirlaway. "His eyes are specially set on the upper side of his head to eliminate the glare of light reflected from the sand, and are protected with long lashes, and his ears are full of hair to keep out the sand."
"How wonderful it all is!" said Helen.
"Would you like to hear the Song of the Camel, of the Modern Camel, not the Protylopus?" asked Whirlaway. "If so, I'll make it up as we go along."
"Do!" she said. So he piped out:
"I can do with a spell in a snug little spot,
Where the grass grows green and high,
And there's shelter and shade, and it's never too hot,
And the water-holes never go dry;
But soon I grow weary, my muscles get slack,
I say, 'This is no place for me;'
I've a scandalous hump on the top of my back;
I must slim it down where there's never a track,
Out where I long to be.
Then come, ye camels who scorn delights,
Let us conquer the fierce simoom,
And the heat and the drought, and we'll camp at nights
Where there's plenty of elbow-room.
So fill your feed-bags full, my mates,
Between the skin and the spine,
Your water-bags, too, till we reach the dates,
And the desert pools. Your leader waits!
Up, sluggards, and fall into line!"
Helen laughed. "Nothing like the simple life," she said, "even if it is strenuous."
Coming to the side of a large wood they heard again the sound of animals feeding. Soon they came upon several elephants breaking their way through the thick undergrowth. Whirlaway said they were now called Tetrabelodon. They were taller, and their noses and tusks were much longer than of yore. Helen was amused to see one of them giving its baby a bath.
"Dear old Paul Pry and his friends!" said Helen, laughing gaily. "We warned him what would happen if he kept pushing his nose into everything. Never mind, old fellows," she cried, kissing her hand and waving good-bye to them, "I admire you all the same."
As they walked on among the trees they came across many noisy monkeys, chattering gaily as they flung themselves carelessly from branch to branch. It seemed the most simple thing in the world to do.
Suddenly there was a new commotion in the undergrowth and, hearing a nasty grunt, Whirlaway grasped Helen's skirt. "Quick, and we'll escape them, for they are as mad as can be."
"What are mad?" asked Helen, pushing Tirri ahead of her, and she scrambled up into the branches of a tree.
"The Dinohyuses, the Terrible Pigs," he answered, "and we were only just in time, for here they come."
Grunting and snorting loudly, a great pig as large as a pony came tearing along, followed by several others. They stopped almost beneath them, and began eating some acorns that had fallen from the trees. When she saw their huge tusks Helen felt very glad that Whirlaway had warned her and that they were all three safe up aloft.
Presently, still snorting and grunting, they moved away, and Helen and Whirlaway climbed down again. Tirri, however, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stayed in the tree.
"My legs were beginning to ache," said Helen, "and I was badly frightened."
"I was worried myself," admitted Whirlaway. "Tirri seems to be the only one who is sorry to leave the tree."
"Yes," said Helen, and as she spoke there was another disturbance in the undergrowth. Helen was just going to climb up and join Tirri again, thinking that the mad pigs had returned, when out dashed a mob of wild horses. Kicking their little hind feet high in the air, and plunging and neighing, they galloped off and were soon out of sight among the tall trees.
"They are just full of life," exclaimed Helen. "One would never believe those horses were related to the dawn horses we saw in the Eocene. They have grown."
"We shall have to hurry now," said Whirlaway, "for we wasted so much time up in the tree." After calling Tirri down, they walked on among the long dry grass again.
Twisted round and round a dead branch that lay on the ground they saw a black snake sleeping in the warm sun, which shone upon its glistening scales.
"Keep out of its way," warned Whirlaway. "There are very many venomous snakes about now so we must be very careful in this dry grass."
"Baa, baa!" came the bleating of a sheep, and, looking up, they saw two long-legged lambs trotting along beside their mother. The ewe did not look like the sheep Helen knew so well, for it was much thinner and its wool was very scraggy.
As Helen and Whirlaway climbed up the side of a very steep hill they saw several other sheep, with an old ram leading them, come racing along a narrow ledge. Helen caught sight of a gap in the path these were following in their headlong flight and felt sure that they would all tumble down into it and be killed. The ram, however, saw the gap in time and, making a leap in the air, cleared it easily, scattering small stones in all directions as he did so. The others had no time to look, but just jumped as the leader had done, and were soon all safe on the other side and raced away.
"Look!" cried Whirlaway, "there is something chasing them."
"Yes," said Helen, "it is a fox."
"Have you ever noticed," said Whirlaway, "that, where one sheep jumps, the others often do likewise when they come to the same place."
"Yes, I have noticed it many a time," she answered.
"Well, you have just seen the reason," said Whirlaway. "It is an old trick, handed down from generation to generation, and goes back to the time they lived on rugged hills like this where the paths were broken. Because those in the rear had no time to look and consider, or they would be pushed over by those coming behind them, they did not look before they leaped, but they leaped after their leader had looked and so were safe."
"That explains it. I had no idea why they jumped as they do."
"Meow, meow!" came a plaintive call, and, looking down, Helen caught sight of a little kitten. Shifting Tirri to her left arm, she was just going to pick it up when Whirlaway stopped her.
"Don't!" he called warningly. Helen saw a small, fierce cat dash out from a hole under the rocks. Snarling and hissing at them, it picked up its kitten and rushed off with it.
"These cats are very savage and will attack anything," said Whirlaway. "The mother cat is fiercest when she has kittens to care for. She is a mammal, and, like the tiny one we saw in the Triassic Period, takes great care of her young."
"I am so used to picking kittens up that I never thought of a mother cat attacking me. But I like her all the more for looking after her baby," said Helen.
"Here is Mr. Sloth again," called Whirlaway. "He has grown a little, but is not nearly so big as he will be later on."
"I DO think they are funny," said Helen, as she looked at the animal hanging downwards from a branch. "Fancy spending all your days just hanging from a tree upside down!"
Just as if the sloth had heard and wanted her to know that he did not spend all his days hanging from a tree he climbed slowly to the ground.
Helen was greatly amused when she saw its brave attempt at crawling, and she followed it as it floundered towards a water-hole. Here her laughter changed to surprise for, on reaching the water, the sloth flopped in and swam with the greatest ease to the other side, where it peered back at Helen in such a comical way that she clapped her hands in delight, much to the discomfort of Tirri, who clutched frantically at her shoulder.
"He is not helpless in the water, is he?" remarked Whirlaway.
"Oh, he is a very good swimmer. I am sorry to think though that he soon will have no water to swim in, because it is all drying up."
"Don't worry about him, he'll be all right. But where is the next door? It should be here."
"It must be somewhere," said Helen. Hunting about, they found it covered over with a creeper.
"The gases gather to the solid firmament; the chemic lump arrives at the plant and grows; arrives at the quadruped and walks; arrives at the man and thinks."
Pulling the creeper aside, Helen read the word PLIOCENE above the door, and, after searching amongst the ivy, she found the year-stone with FIVE MILLION YEARS TO PLEISTOCENE on it.
"Pliocene," murmured Whirlaway, "is from two Greek words meaning more and recent."
"What a cold wind!" said Helen as she opened the door. I am sure we shall have snow."
"I think so, too," said Whirlaway, pulling his cape up tightly round him. "It is a good thing that Tirri has such a warm coat."
Beside a gingko tree stood an extraordinary animal almost as big as an elephant. It had no fewer than four horns, two small ones above its eyes and two much larger ones behind them.
"Whatever is it?" asked Helen.
"It's called Sivatherium giganteum, meaning the Gigantic Wild Beast of Siva, or of the Sivian Hills. Siva was an Indian god. Sivatherium connects two great families—the giraffes and the antelopes."
"Do you mean it's an ancestor of the giraffe?" asked Helen.
"Well, why hasn't it a long neck?" she asked.
"Because," answered Whirlaway, "in the early part of the Pliocene Period there is no need for the long neck. You will see that, later, owing to droughts in some cases and extreme cold in others, the grass will be very scarce, and the ancestors of the giraffe will have to reach higher and higher to the leaves of the trees. In the next generation their necks will grow much longer, and, before we reach the end of the period, you will find that their necks will be quite long." He paused and, quietly calling Helen to follow him, crept behind some big trees. "The Sabre-Toothed Cat!" he whispered. "I just caught a glimpse of him."
Peering round the trunk of a tree, Helen saw the lithe animal creeping towards a group of horses which were feeding peacefully.
"Oh, I do hope they will see it in time," she whispered.
Nearer and nearer the great tiger-like cat crept. Slinking from bush to bush, it lay flat on its stomach, its tail switching from side to side. Suddenly one of the horses, which appeared to be the leader, threw its head high in the air and, sniffing, reared up on its hind legs, uttering at the same time a loud, squealing whinny. Like a flash it was off at full speed with the others close at its heels.
Careering across the open country before them went the whole mob of wild horses, their manes and tails floating behind them in the wind.
"Don't they look splendid!" cried Helen.
"Although they are only a little over three feet high," said Whirlaway, "they are now very perfect little horses, for their toes have developed into a hoof."
"Oh, but look at that big elephant over there!" she cried.
"That is really a cousin to the elephant and is called a mastodon," said Whirlaway.
"Has that word anything to do with massive?" she asked.
"No, it refers to the rounded shape of its back teeth," was the reply.
The great cat slunk away among some bushes where the mastodon was feeding, and Whirlaway told Helen not to worry because with his huge tusks the mastodon would put fear into even a sabre-toothed cat.
As they hurried on the wind became colder and colder and blew Helen's curls back from her forehead.
"The wind is burning my face," she said. "I was right when I said it was going to snow. Poor little Tirri," she continued, holding the shivering animal close to her body. "You do feel the cold, don't you?" Just as she spoke pretty little flakes of snow began to fall softly through the air. Soon the ground was covered with a thin coating of white, and their footsteps showed in little black patches where they had walked.
They made their way hurriedly towards some rocks for shelter. Seeing a cave, they were just about to enter it when Helen gave a sudden cry, for leading from the cave and embedded deeply in the soft snow were footprints resembling those of a human being.
"Are those the footprints of a man?" asked Helen, as much alarmed as Robinson Crusoe was when he found marks like these on the sea-sand. "And shall we meet him?"
"I hope not," said Whirlaway. "Primitive man is savage and cruel. All animals fear him. They may be stronger than he is, but his is the greater cunning. No, it would not be safe to meet him."
Whirlaway crept over to the cave and, peeping inside it, found it empty. They were glad of the shelter, for the driving snow soon half-blocked the entrance and they were quite warm out of the wind.
At last the blizzard stopped and, when the sun appeared, they climbed out of their shelter.
They had gone only a few yards when Helen caught sight of a grotesque little animal sitting outside its burrow.
"That is a horned gopher," said Whirlaway. "He is a very interesting animal and he makes his home under the ground."
Having admired the gopher, Helen began to study the scenery.
"Oh, how lovely everything looks!" she cried. "Those trees are all frosted."
"Water in all its forms is beautiful," said Whirlaway musingly.
"The frosting you see on the trees is water crystalized into exquisite six-rayed patterns. And think of the loveliness of morning mists and sunset clouds, of dew and frost and snow, of rolling billows and quiet lakes, of rippling brooks and noble rivers and tumbling waterfalls."
"Don't say it, Whirlaway, sing it," she pleaded.
"That has all been done before," he answered with a smile; "but to please you, I'll sing you a little song of Water."
Old Proteus, the sea-god,
With superhuman skill,
Into a thousand different shapes
Could change his form at will.
'Twas I that cradled Proteus,
I taught him all he knew;
But never yet has sea-god done
The things that I can do.
You see me as the ocean,
As frost and dew and mist,
As stream and lake and river,
And clouds all sunset-kissed.
As rain and hail and snowdrift,
As icebergs vast and cold;
I climb to the tallest tree-tops,
I dive beneath the mould.
The Sun and I together
Make rainbows in the sky,
And we give the sky its blueness
When my clouds have scudded by.
I live in fruits and flowers,
In everything you see;
And as for you, dear Helen,
What's you is mostly me.
"I'll think of that—with tears," said Helen, laughing merrily.
"And with smiles, too, young lady," answered Whirlaway. "You owe your beauty to moisture. You'd look well, wouldn't you, if you were all dried up like an Egyptian mummy."
They walked on, their feet sinking deep down into the snow.
"Do you know what I was thinking just before we walked into the cave?" asked Helen.
"No, what were you thinking?"
"Well, when you peeped into the cave I thought how terrible it would be if there were a sabre-toothed cat, or something worse, hiding in it. But I did not say anything," she finished with a happy smile.
"It was very brave of you. I don't know what we should have done. That's why I was careful to look before we entered,
"Oh, I'm so hot with all this walking," said Helen as she pushed up the sleeves of her jumper and put Tirri down.
A great armadillo crawled across their path, its funny, knobbed tail dragging along in the dirt behind it. As she followed it, Helen began to laugh. "This creature is amusing. I think Mr. Door-Knocker would be a good name for him, for his funny tail looks just like the knocker on the door."
"It seems to suit him; but look at his head!" said Whirlaway, laughing.
"A hat!" exclaimed Helen. "At least it looks like one, and it matches the shell on his back."
"He is certainly well protected," said Whirlaway.
They followed the armadillo, who made his way towards a stream, where he began to drink. Suddenly Helen startled Whirlaway by darting out of sight behind a tree.
Looking up, he commenced to laugh, "They are giant sloths," he said, "the ones I told you about that grew so big that they had to stand up and pull trees down to feed upon."
"Are they relations of the funny little creature that swam so well?" asked Helen, coming from behind the tree and staring at the monstrous animals.
"They are closely related," was the reply. "But just look at Tirri!" he said, jumping up and down greatly amused.
Glancing down, Helen saw her little koala crawling very unsteadily across some stones towards the giants. As she watched, one of the sloths flopped heavily down the opposite hill towards Tirri, walking awkwardly on the outside edges of its huge feet. It reached the bank of the stream, where it stretched out its curious head and regarded Tirri with evident amazement. Greatly amused, Helen looked at the two furry animals that were gazing at each other—one so tiny and the other twenty feet long!
"I can't make up my mind," she said, "whether Tirri or the sloth is the more surprised of the two."
"Nor I," replied Whirlaway. "But you would laugh if you only knew what the sloth was saying to your pet!"
"What is he saying? Oh, please tell me, Whirlaway!"
"He is warning your pet, Helen, and this is what he is saying:"
My rubber-nosed friend,
I've good counsel to lend,
And you'll take it unless you are crazy:
Don't work for a master,
'Twill bring you disaster;
Don't give up your right to be lazy.
Now Sloth is my name,
And my nature's the same,
And the state of my mind's rather hazy;
My brain I don't worry,
I dream and don't hurry,
Nor give up my right to be lazy.
So live here with me,
Just cling to a tree,
Smile up at the sky like a daisy;
Let nothing else matter,
Get fatter and fatter
And stick to your right to be lazy.
"Do you think I should go and rescue him?" asked Helen in alarm. "I should hate the monsters to adopt him."
Without waiting for Whirlaway's reply she hurried down, and, seizing her pet, turned and fled back across the stones, which were scattered over the little stream.
"The animal seemed even more amazed when you appeared," said Whirlaway, arranging his bright cloak. "If you could only have seen the startled expression on its face!"
"The startled expression on Tirri's face was quite enough," replied Helen as they hurried away. "In future I'll carry him and take no chances!"
Presently she saw in the snow a number of footprints quite different from those of the horse, for they were the marks of cloven hoofs.
"What are they?" asked Helen.
Whirlaway stopped and looked around.
"We dare not go any farther in that direction," he said in some alarm, "for those are the footprints of the great Bos primogenius, the original ancestor of all oxen. They are very wild and go in herds."
"Listen," said Helen.
The sound of a loud bellow quite close to them caused Whirlaway to seize Helen's hand and Tirri to cling tighter, and they rushed to some trees a short distance away. Looking round Helen saw charging towards them a number of wild cattle with great outspread horns.
"Oh, they must have seen your red cloak. We must climb up that tree if we can only get there in time."
On they rushed, with the sound of pounding hoofs coming nearer and nearer.
Reaching the tree, Helen put Tirri down, and he soon clambered up the trunk, with Helen and Whirlaway close behind.
They were just in time, for a great bull came charging up with foam flying from its mouth. He was over seven feet high at the shoulder, and his formidable horns stretched about eight feet across from tip to tip.
"What an awful animal! And here are the others," said Helen, as more of the huge beasts came circling round the tree.
"We were lucky that there was such a good tree to climb into," said Whirlaway.
"Indeed we were," answered Helen, who now felt secure in the high branches.
"What a splendid view we get from here! Look across the plains to those hills in the distance," said Whirlaway.
"See, here are some giraffes," said Helen, "and I notice they now have their peculiar long necks. They are eating the leaves from the trees."
"Yes, and look at the number of ostriches on the plain," replied Whirlaway. "Something has frightened them. Notice how quickly they are moving. We shall have to be moving also as soon as those beasts have gone. We'll make a dash for the snow-clad hills on the right, for behind them lies the next door."
"Look, look, Whirlaway, that is what has frightened the ostriches," said Helen.
Some distance away, slinking from bush to bush, crept the sabre-toothed cat. Suddenly the cattle also caught sight of it and, wheeling round, charged down upon it.
"Now is our chance," said Whirlaway.
So they climbed down and hurried on, Helen carrying Tirri.
"It is getting much colder again," said Helen as they raced towards the next door, which they could now see all covered with snow.
A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
—Dr. W. H. Carruth in Each in his own Tongue.
Pushing the snow off the year-stone, Helen read: ONE MILLION YEARS TO HOLOCENE.
"Where have I seen that word Holocene before?" asked Helen. Then, remembering, she called to Whirlaway: "That is the first word the hand of the clock in the lift pointed to."
"Yes," replied Whirlaway, "it showed up in bright letters. You remember the word means wholly recent, all new, while Pleistocene means mostly new."
Flinging the Pleistocene door open, they walked through to a scene similar to the one they had left. The ground and the trees were covered with snow, and even the swift-running rivers were frozen over with glassy-blue ice.
"Will the snow last very much longer?" asked Helen as she put Tirri down and stretched her arms above her head.
"Yes, on and off for a very long time," Whirlaway answered her as he walked ahead.
Presently he pointed to a large shaggy animal and a smaller one close beside it standing out on the open plains.
"That is a big hairy mammoth with his companion and friend the woolly rhinoceros," said Whirlaway.
"I have seen drawings of the mammoth," said Helen. "Mammoths have huge curved tusks, haven't they?"
"Yes," said Whirlaway, "and they have two coats to keep out the cold, a woolly undercoat and a long hairy overcoat. His friend the woolly rhinoceros is also warmly clad, so they do not feel the cold, in fact they prefer cold weather to hot."
Looking round, Helen saw poor little Tirri struggling frantically through the snow, his feet sinking deep.
Greatly concerned, Helen hurried back to him, and, picking him up, brushed the snow off his fur. "You are not used to the snow, are you, darling?" she said as he snuggled his head into her shoulder.
"You do not seem to be managing very well yourself," said Whirlaway, laughing at Helen's efforts to walk over the snow. "I think we had better go down to that frozen river," he added. "The surface is hard and firm and we can travel on it for miles. See the way it winds through the trees away into the distance?"
"Yes," she answered, and, hurrying as quickly as she could through the snow, she reached the ice-covered river first. Running, she stiffened her legs and slid gracefully along. "This is great fun," she called to Whirlaway; "you should try it."
"If the wind were only blowing the other way I should be able to glide along without any effort at all," said Whirlaway. "I'd just have to hold out my cloak and be carried along!"
"Well, wouldn't that be fun?" said Helen. As they glided onward she caught sight of the mammoth and its trusty friend the woolly rhinoceros. "Look who's here!" she cried, pointing to them. "I think we should call them Darby and Joan, because they are always together. I am sure they talk to each other, too," she added.
"Very likely," replied Whirlaway as they went round a sharp bend in the river. "All animals talk by sounds or gestures. Here are some that have chosen an oak tree to talk beneath," he added, pointing to six more of the beasts sheltering beneath a tree.
"I am glad to see them taking shelter," said Helen, "because they look so cold when they stand right out in the snow."
"We shall have to take shelter ourselves," added Whirlaway, "for it looks very much as if it were going to snow again."
Hurrying off to some big trees, Helen suddenly got an idea. "Let us build a snow house—one that will keep the cold wind out!"
"It's a very good idea to build a hut, because it looks as if it were going to snow for a long, long time."
"But would it be safe for us to wait, as perhaps one of those terrible sabre-toothed cats might come and attack us?"
"You need not be afraid of that, for the last of them has now perished."
They soon made a snug little house formed of branches packed with snow and, crawling through an opening they had left at one side, they settled themselves comfortably.
"Oo-oo-oo!" yawned Helen some time later as she stretched her legs before her. "We must have been sitting here for such a long time."
"We have," said Whirlaway, as he ran his long, pointed fingers through Tirri's furry coat; "and it is just as well we built this house under the trees because it has been snowing very heavily."
"Indeed it has!" exclaimed Helen as she poked her head out of the little opening. "I think I must have been dozing for I did not notice it."
"It snows so long and heavily in this period that the snow gradually fills the valley between the hills. It becomes heaped higher and higher until it levels the country for hundreds and hundreds of miles. This is known as the Great Ice Age," said Whirlaway. "The North Sea is frozen over and a great sheet of ice stretches over Europe!"
"You amaze me! What wonderful things I shall have to tell Mother when I get home. Just fancy the sea being frozen!"
"I think we can go on now," said Whirlaway. "See, the sun is just peeping through."
The clouds were racing across the blue sky, and with the sun came a glorious rainbow.
"Oh, Whirlaway! Isn't that beautiful?" cried Helen as she clapped her hands with delight.
"Yes," he replied, beaming, "just like my waistcoat."
So intent was Helen on looking at the rainbow that she didn't notice the mammoth and his attendant the woolly rhinoceros approaching quite close to them.
"I think they must be curious about Tirri and wondering what we are," said Helen.
The next minute she called to Whirlaway to look on the ground, for, peeping through the snow beside her were the heads of pretty little daisies.
Leaving their hut and crossing the snow, which was beginning to melt in little patches, they followed a craggy path that led up the side of a mountain. Higher and higher they climbed until they reached the top, where they stood and gazed about them in wonder.
On one side of the mountain they saw glittering masses of snow and ice, while on the other side from a carpet of green grass grew gorgeous mountain flowers.
"Isn't that wonderful!" exclaimed Helen in awe. "Snow on one side of the mountain stretching for miles and miles and flowers on the other!"
"It is beautiful," replied Whirlaway, gazing about him. "The flowers are harbingers of spring."
"Oh, I am glad we climbed up here," cried Helen in ecstasy. "Don't you love the quaint way the flowers grow among the rocks? They just seem to peep around them as if they were too shy to venture any further."
"It is beautiful on one side and dangerous on the other," said Whirlaway as he heard a distant rumble. "Can you hear that noise?"
"Yes, I can. What is it?"
Whirlaway's answer was lost in a rushing, crashing thunder-burst, which seemed to shake the very mountain on which they were standing. When it was quieter he told her that it was the sound of an avalanche breaking away from a mountain and falling to the ground thousands of feet below.
"Will the mammoth and his friend be hurt?" asked Helen.
"Oh, I shouldn't think so, for they always keep well out on the plains. But look!" he cried suddenly, and, clutching the hem of Helen's skirt, he pointed to a mountain near them.
They gazed spellbound before them as an enormous mass of ice began to move. It came slowly away from the side of the mountain, and, breaking away, toppled over. With a noise louder than thunder, it collapsed and fell to the ground, flinging out millions of fragments in its descent. A cloud of misty snow that looked like smoke rose up before them to mark the fall of the mighty avalanche.
"Oh!" gasped Helen, "that frightened me at first, but it became so wonderful I seemed to forget to be frightened."
"If we could wait here long enough we should see the snow and ice melt and little streams trickle down between the hills. Becoming bigger and bigger, they would develop into rivers, then from rivers into wide, rushing torrents. These would frighten you, for they make a terrific roar as they rush towards the sea, carrying everything they can collect before them," said Whirlaway.
"I can hear the sound of rushing water now," said Helen.
"Yes, but that is a waterfall. Shall we go in search of it?"
"I'd like to go; but let us climb down this side of the mountain," cried Helen, pointing to where the glorious flowers were growing.
Down they went, jumping over pretty little mountain streams and stopping here and there to look closely at the mountain daisies and other flowers that were waving in the gentle breeze.
Reaching the foot of the mountain, they hurried in search of the waterfall they could hear so plainly. Louder and louder grew the noise until at last they came upon a cataract that would have made the Niagara Falls look like a mere trickle.
"It is four and a half miles long and it has a drop of nine hundred feet," called out Whirlaway, who had to speak very loudly to be heard.
Helen did not answer him, but, without disturbing Tirri, lifted her hands to her face and gazed out upon the mighty stretch of water that thundered down before her. She had never seen anything like this in her life.
"It is fascinating I know," shouted Whirlaway, "but we shall have to leave it now."
Catching sight of some pretty animals with stripes on their hind legs, Helen suddenly stopped and pointed to them. "Are they related to the giraffes?" she asked.
"Yes, and they are called Okapis. Don't they look queer?"
"I can see much more clearly now what animals are related," said Helen. "I have seen little Paul Pry develop into a large elephant, Eohippus become a four-hoofed horse, and even a reptile develop into a bird. It was hard to believe these things were true; but, now that I have actually seen them, it makes all the difference."
"Look over there at old Doedicures, the Giant Armadillo," said Whirlaway. "He still keeps his wonderful armour, because, even though there are no dinosaurs to attack him, there are many other hungry animals that would be glad to make a meal of him."
"He seems to be sound asleep," said Helen, and, creeping quietly up to the animal, she pulled his long whiskers. He awakened with such a startled expression on his face that they both burst out laughing. "That really wasn't fair, was it?" she said to Whirlaway, who was still holding his sides with mirth.
"No," he replied, "and he may be angry with you, so we shall hurry away."
"Look!" cried Helen, who had gone on ahead. "Here is an animal like a wombat, only he is ever so much bigger!"
"I should say he WAS bigger. He is over twelve feet long. His name is Diprotodon (old Two-Teeth), and he is the largest of his class, which is called Marsupial."
"What, like kangaroos?" cried Helen, eagerly.
"He is an ancestor of the pouched Australian animals," answered Whirlaway.
The animal took little notice of them, and went on busily digging away at some roots with his huge clawed feet.
Hearing a loud trampling noise, they looked about them, and down in a valley they saw a herd of elephants. Some of them were waving their trunks high in the air and trumpeting loudly, while others, which had long curved tusks, rested under the trees.
"Shall we go down and have a closer look at them?" suggested Whirlaway.
"I'd like to go, because I can see some little baby ones running beside their mothers," cried Helen.
"Well, if that is the case, I do not think we'd be very welcome, so I suggest we go along the banks of this stream," said Whirlaway in a very emphatic tone.
Wandering along the banks, they came across some industrious creatures busily engaged in building themselves a dam.
"Why, they are beavers!" cried Helen; "but what an enormous size they are!"
"Yes, they are called Castorides, meaning beaver-like creatures. Let us have a good look at the one over there. They are very clever engineers, and the one you see is building himself a dam so that, even if the rain does get low, he will have plenty of water."
The beaver, using his tail as a prop, set to work with his sharp teeth and quickly cut through a small willow tree. Then he trimmed off the branches and cut the trunk into short lengths; then, adjusting them in his mouth, towed them down to where he was building the dam, using his webbed hind feet as propellers.
"Isn't he clever?" said Helen in admiration.
"Indeed he is!" replied Whirlaway.
Just then the great beaver saw them and gave with his tail a warning slap that echoed across the water. Then he immediately dived into the stream.
"Did you notice the soft undercoat of fur and the long, coarse hairs covering it?" asked Whirlaway.
"Yes," said Helen, "he has two coats, like the mammoth."
Waving farewell to the clever animals, they hurried on, but had not gone far before Helen began jumping up and down and calling out in an excited voice: "A Dodo! A Dodo! with its little one. I have seen lots of drawings of them, but here is a LIVE one."
"See how tiny his wings are!" said Whirlaway as the Dodo waddled past them. "That is because he did not try to fly and so lost the use of them. If he had been pursued by fierce animals he would have had to use his wings, and they would have been much bigger and strong enough to carry him. Now they're useless!"
"Poor Dodos!" he continued. "They are doomed to die out. The last survivors will perish in the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius, and their remains will be found there long years afterwards. Mrs. Dodo lays only one egg. You might hardly credit it, but she's a member of the pigeon family. Shall I sing a song to the Dodo?"
"Do, do!" she answered.
So Whirlaway began:
"You are dowdy, Mrs. Dodo,
Though related to the Dove,
And your husband looks just so-so,
And you've but one chick to love.
I am sorry for the Dodos
When their future I foresee:
All the Dodos will be slaughtered
Through Man's inhumanity.
In the island of Mauritius
They will perish one by one,
And the Dodo folks will waddle
Never more beneath the sun.
Love your chick, poor Mrs. Dodo,
In this period Pleistocene;
Heeding not the sword above you
Bye-bye, Dodo; sleep serene."
"Poor doomed Dodos!" cried Helen with tears in her eyes. "But look! There are some giraffes!" and she pointed to a group of spotted animals that were straining their heads high in the air.
"Did you notice how their necks have grown since you last saw them? They are just eighteen feet high now!" said Whirlaway.
"I love to watch the way their tongues clip off the leaves from the trees," said Helen, gazing up at the long-necked creatures, who took no notice of them, but steadily went on feeding.
"Their tongues are nearly as wonderful as their necks," said Whirlaway. "How would you like to have a tongue nearly a foot and a half long when it's fully extended? If the giraffe wants to do it he can stretch his tongue like a piece of india-rubber, and the very tip of it can be made into a tiny point."
Tirri suddenly began to get restless and struggled in Helen's arms, so she put him down. Immediately she did so he hurried off on all fours as quickly as he could.
"Wherever can he be going?" asked Helen, quite alarmed lest she should lose him; and the next minute they saw the cause of all the excitement.
In an opening stood some Giant Kangaroos, their heads carried alertly as if listening for danger. One of them, with a little baby kangaroo peeping out of its pouch, turned and hopped away, while Tirri scrambled after her.
"Quick!" called Helen, racing after Tirri and the disappearing kangaroo. "Let us follow them!"
"We have lost them," said Whirlaway as he stood a little breathless beneath a tree. But he had no sooner spoken than they were startled by a loud "Ho-ho-ha-ha!"
"A kookaburra!" cried Helen, looking up into a tree. "They seem always to find something to laugh at."
"Perhaps it laughed at us!" said Whirlaway, with a twinkle in his bright eyes, and, walking past a clump of trees, they found the kangaroo and Tirri making friends, with the laughing jackass perched on the limb of a tree above them.
"That was a good joke, wasn't it?" said Helen, smiling up at the beautiful bird. He chuckled softly to himself and ruffled his neck-feathers.
Looking down, she caught sight of a platypus. Its duck-like bill was carried close to the ground, and its four webbed feet padded softly along as it hurried towards the stream that flowed between them.
"That is a platypus, an Ornithorhyncus paradoxus," said Whirlaway as the dark form sidled into the water. "Sometimes they are called duck-bills because of their duck-like beaks."
"I know it is a platypus," replied Helen, "although I have not seen a live one before. Doesn't their soft fur glisten when it is wet? I WOULD love to touch it."
"Oh, you couldn't possibly do that," said Whirlaway, "platypuses are far too timid."
Almost immediately the platypus dived beneath some outspread water-lily leaves and was out of sight.
"Croak, croak!" went a fat bull-frog as he sat sedately on one of the leaves.
"You sound as if you are telling me I can't catch the platypus," said Helen, "so I am going to tell you something. I have seen your ancestors, and they looked very queer indeed—they were 'way back in the Carboniferous Period, and were as big as ponies."
"Croak, croak, croak!" replied the frog as he plopped into the water.
"Now I wonder what he meant by that," said Helen. "Was he making fun of my ancestors?"
"Sh-h-h!" whispered Whirlaway. "Come with me and keep very quiet. I have something to show you."
"Wait till I get Tirri first." And, hurrying to her pet, Helen caught sight of a 'possum clinging to a branch of a tree, with a baby clutching firmly at its back.
"Did you see the 'possum?" she whispered to Whirlaway as they crept through the undergrowth.
"Yes, I did! But look over there!"
Lifting her head, Helen saw a lyre bird dancing up and down on its mound. Its graceful body bent to and fro as it brought its magnificent tail well forward over its head, and, echoing through the hills, rang the clear bell-like notes of its throbbing voice.
"I wonder what he is singing," said Helen.
"Probably something like this," answered Whirlaway:
When Homer smites his lyre,
My tail will hold the strings,
My spirit shall inspire
The songs that Homer sings.
And, by Divine command,
In ages yet unknown,
A sunny Southern Land
Will claim me for its own.
I'll fill the Bush with song,
With rapturous melody,
Australian bards will throng
To learn their art from me.
With echoes from each bird
My song shall be imbued,
And in my voice be heard
That of a multitude.
"Oh, isn't it graceful?" cried Helen, as she gazed at the dancing bird.
"Yes, but we still have more things to see, so let us hurry along."
Climbing over a hill, they came upon an enormous bird and Helen had to strain her neck to look up at it. "It makes me feel so tiny," she said. "What is it?"
"That is a moa," replied Whirlaway. "Hasn't he tremendous legs!"
"Yes, he seems all legs to me—so he must look enormous to you!"
"The moa," said Whirlaway, wincing a little at this allusion to his size, "is another doomed bird. The last of his descendants will be killed out by the Maoris in New Zealand five hundred years before the date of your birth, Helen. Oh, I forgot; you are born, aren't you? One gets confused in these regions of the past. Anyway, what is Time? Could you tell me, Helen?"
"I've heard," she replied, "that Time is the stuff Life is made of. But then what is Life?"
"Helen dear," said her companion seriously, "you must think out these problems for yourself. Soon you and I must part for a while."
"You're not going to leave me?" she said in alarm. "Oh, Whirlaway!"
"Helen," he said, "don't give way to fear. Remember that, like me, you are an immortal. Nothing can harm us, not even pain or so-called death. You and I did not meet by chance. I was sent by a Power Divine that inhabits every atom of this great universe. It has been my privilege to act as your guide and friend in reviewing a portion of the past and helping to reveal to you some of Time's secrets. You have learned a little, but the great ocean of truth lies before you. Besides Time there is Space, stretching out farther than the faintest star in the heavens. Perhaps some day you and I together will explore the deeps of Space."
Long afterwards Helen remembered these farewell words, but, at the moment, they made her heart sink.
She saw a flash, just as if Whirlaway had thrown his beautiful cloak over his shoulder, and there was nothing—he was not there.
"Whirlaway! Whirlaway!" she cried in a pitiful voice. But there was no answer.
Picking up Tirri in her arms, she began to run. Faster and faster her little legs carried her over the rough ground. Where was Whirlaway? Why had he gone? She kept thinking, and, glancing back over her shoulder, she suddenly tripped and, falling heavily to the ground, rolled over and over...
Clasping Tirri firmly in her arms, Helen gazed in wonder at the fire before her, which had now burnt low. There were no sprightly little flames shooting and darting, no glowing colours—there was no Whirlaway! But on her knees rested the wonderful book, crowded with drawings of animals that she now knew so well, and beside her on the floor were the coloured keys—no longer dull, but shining like gems; no longer mystery keys, but the keys to a wonderful adventure—the keys to the long-past ages.
End Papers. After reading this book, see how many animals depicted on the end papers you can name from the illustrations and descriptions in the story.
Ly'-ell, Sir Charles. A great English geologist (1797-1875).
Tirri. An abbreviation for Tirrita, an aboriginal word meaning Australian-born.
Koala or "Native bear." The scientific name is Phascolarctos cinereus, meaning pouched-bear, ashen.
Ar'-chae-o-zo'-ic. Young readers should note that, in words derived from the Greek, "ch" is sounded as k. Compare chemist, chorus.
"An English scholar." Adam Sedgwick, geologist (1785—1873).
Lin'-gu-la, literally, a little tongue. Name given to a tiny shell-fish attached to a tubular stalk.
Wen'-dell Holmes. Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), American physician, poet, essayist, and novelist.
Lung'-fish. Called also "dipnoi," or double-breathers. The gills are covered, and a short tube leads to an interior lung or lungs.
"Not plants, really animals." What is the difference between a plant and an animal? The question is worth the reader's study and research. Having regard to the lower forms of animal and plant life, he will find it hard to define "plant" in terms that will exclude all animals, and vice versa.
"In Memoriam." Famous poem by Lord Tennyson "in memory" of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam.
Gan-oids. The Shining Ones, from two Greek words meaning brightness and form.
Club moss'-es. What is a moss? How does it differ from a grass, or a tree?
Al'-ex-an'-der. Alexander the Great, King of Macedon from 336-323 B.C. Read an account of him in a history of Greece and find in what circumstances he wept because there were no more worlds to conquer.
Coal'-beds. How do people know that coal was formed from plants? What examples are there of partially-formed coal?
"No birds to sing." Why were there no birds in the Carboniferous Period? Why do birds sing?
"Wide gla'-ci-ers." How is it known that there were so many glaciers in the Permian Period? What traces have been left?
Sal'-a-man-der. A harmless little amphibian; but some people used to think it could live and breathe in the fiercest fire. This arose from the old belief in the four elements—earth, air, water, fire. An earth-spirit was a gnome, an air-spirit a sylph, Undine was a water-dweller, and a salamander a fire-dweller.
Drag'-ons. How did the fairy stories of dragons come into being? The word "dragon" is probably from a very old root, meaning "to look," or "to see." The legendary dragons had terrible eyes.
Saur'-i-an. Many names in this book end in "saur" or "saurus," from Greek sauros, a lizard. Make a list of them and see how many pictures of saurians you can recognize.
Croc'-o-diles. What's the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?
Eggs. Name all the living animals you know that leave their eggs to be hatched by the sun.
El-e-gy, A song or poem of mourning or lamentation. Name some famous elegies that you have heard or read.
Cy'-cads. Plants intermediate between tree-fern and palm, with thick stem and crown of divided leaves. The sago-palm is typical of the cycads.
Eu-ca-lyp'-tus. The name means "well-covered," a reference to the seeds in the seed-box.
Dawn horse. The fossil remains of Eohippus are found in the western parts of the United States. It is said that horses died out in North America and were re-introduced by the Spaniards. It is also thought that there are no really aboriginal wild horses, only domesticated horses gone wild, except perhaps in the case of such members of the horse family as asses and zebras.
Cam'-el. Compare the camel with the horse with regard to shape, size, habits, and usefulness to man.
Sa'-bre-toothed Cat. A sabre is a curved sword. What animals nowadays have curved teeth? Name all the members of the cat family you know.
But'-ter-fly. What is the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Why hasn't a moth similar bright colours?
Flow'-ers and in'-sects. What does the flower give the insect? What does the insect do for the flower?
Sloth. Rhyme it with growth; it comes from the same root as slow. Modern sloths are found in Central and South America.
Or'-ni-tho-rhyn'-cus para-dox'-us. From Greek ornithos, a bird; rhynchos, a snout or beak; and paradoxos, contrary to ordinary belief. Why is the platypus a paradox?
Lyre bird. The lyre is one of the oldest musical instruments. Did the bird, in ancient times, inhabit Europe, and did its tail serve as a model for the ancient lyre? Discuss the question.
Ho'-mer. Epic poet of Ancient Greece, supposed to have flourished about the ninth century B.C. Reputed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two long and splendid poems of gods and heroes.
Many other notes could have been added, but it is of little use to tell readers what they can search out for themselves—from their dictionaries, encyclopaedias and other reference books. Better far than reference books are museums and the wonderful old Earth itself. It is hoped that readers will not be satisfied till they get to original sources of information. Let them not be too ready to accept anyone's say-so. "Prove all things." That's the only way to have a sure foundation for any real knowledge.
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