Gateway to the Classics: The Seasons: Spring by Jane Marcet
The Seasons: Spring by  Jane Marcet

Length of Days

W ILLY was much surprised that Ann called him to go to bed one evening before it was dark.

"Why do you want me to go to bed so early, Ann? indeed, I shall not go till half past seven o'clock."

"It has just struck the half hour," replied she.

"Oh no, Ann, you must be mistaken; you know it is always dark when I go to bed."

"Not in the summer time," said Ann; "and we are very near summer now."

"But it was dark last night when I went to bed, for you lighted a candle to see to undress me."

"The days get longer and longer every day," replied Ann, "and I shall light no more candles to put you to bed."

"I think now the days are longer, I ought to stay up longer; it is a pity to go to bed by daylight."

"Well, you must ask your Mamma."

Mamma consented, that as summer was coming, Willy should sit up till eight o'clock; so Ann was sent away for another half hour.

"Will the days always grow longer and longer now, Mamma?"

"Not always; but till the middle of the summer; and then they will begin to shorten again, and become shorter and shorter till the middle of the winter. Do you not remember how short the days were last winter, when there was frost and snow? Papa and I dined by candle-light, for the sun was set before our dinner time."

"Does not the sun always set at the same time?"

"No; in winter it sets very early, and then the days are very short."

"Oh, yes," said Willy; "I know that it is the sun that makes the daylight; and that it is dark night when he goes to make daylight in other countries."

"Now that we are in the spring," continued his mother, "the sun sets later than it did in the winter, so that the days are longer; in the summer it sets later still, and then the days are the longest of all the days in the year."

"Then the sun is like me, Mamma," said Willy, laughing.

"Why, my dear?"

"Because he goes to bed earliest in winter, and later in spring, and latest of all in summer. You know, Mamma, that you send me to bed at seven o'clock in winter, and at half past seven in the spring; and now that summer is coming, you let me stay up till eight o'clock."

"Well, Willy, I am very glad you are like the sun, for then I hope your face will always look bright and cheerful like his."

"Oh, but you know, Mamma, that the sun looks dismal sometimes, when the clouds are passing over his face."

"Then I am afraid you are like him, sometimes; for when you look cross and dull, it is like a cloud passing over your face. And when you cry, Willy, what is that like?"

"Oh!" said Willy, laughing, "that is the cloud falling down like the rain—exactly like rain, for drops of tears are made of water, just like drops of rain; are they not, Mamma?" and Willy began jumping about as he usually did when he was pleased with something new.

"Well, Willy," said his Mother, "I never saw you so merry before, talking about crying. But now observe that summer is coming, and then we have fine weather, and very little rain; so mind that you are to be like the sun in summer. You know what I mean," said she, smiling archly.

"Oh yes, Mamma, very little crying,—that is what you mean. Well, now I shall try to watch and see if the days get longer and longer; for, till you told me, I thought they were always the same length."

"Why, Willy, how could you do that, when you know that we dined by candle-light in the winter, because the sun was set, and that Ann was often obliged to light a candle in the morning to see to dress herself, because the sun was not risen?"

"Oh, yes; and I remember I said to her, 'How foolish you are, Ann, not to open the window shutter instead of lighting a candle!' And then she opened the window shutter, and showed me that it was all dark out of doors, and that the sun was not risen to make it daylight. The sun is very lazy in winter, then, Mamma; for he goes to bed early and gets up late. What does he do all that long night?"

"You know that he does not sleep, Willy, and that it is only joking to say he goes to bed. Don't you remember where he goes to?"

"Oh, yes; he goes to other countries to make it daylight there; and does he stay in the other countries all that long night?"

"Yes; but it is not long night in the countries where he stays."

"Oh, no, no," said Willy; "it is daylight all the time the sun stays with them; so it is a long day with them, not a long night."

"Yes," replied his Mother; "in winter, when the sun stays away from us a great while, we have very long nights, and the country it is gone to, have very long days."

"That is not fair, Mr. Sun," said Willy; "you ought to stay with us as long as you do with the other people in their country."

"In spring he does stay with us as long as he does with them; for in the middle of spring the days are just as long as the nights."

"And how long are they, Mamma?" said Willy.

"Twelve hours each," replied his Mother.

"Well, but, Mamma, the sun is not fair to us in winter; because, then, he stays much longer with the black negroes than he does with us."

"And do you think the sun acts fairly in summer, when he stays much longer with us than he does with them?"

"No, to be sure," cried Willy; "that is not fair. . . . Yes, it is," continued he; "because the black people have long days in winter, when we have short days; so that makes up for it."

"And do you think that they call it winter when they have such long days?"

"Oh, no; when the days are long, you say that it is summer."

"You see, then, my dear, that it is summer in their country when it is winter with us."

"How droll!" said Willy; "then it must be winter in their countries when it is summer here?"

"Certainly," replied she; "the sun cannot make the days long in both parts of the world at once; so we take it by turns. It is summer with us one part of the year, and with the black people the other half."

"Then you do it all very fairly, Mr. Sun; and I beg your pardon for saying you did not."

"Mamma, you said the world; what is the world?"

"The world," replied she, "is all the fields, and towns, and country, that you can see; and all the fields, and towns, and country, that you cannot see, put together."

"What, London and Ash Grove, and where Harry lives in summer, and Cousin Mary, and the country where the negroes live besides?"

"Yes, where any body lives; and there are a great many countries where people live that you do not know."

"But there are more places where white people live, than negroes, Mamma; are there not?"

"Yes, my dear; and there are many countries where the people are neither white like us, nor black like negroes; but something between black and white, a sort of copper colour, like the coal-scuttle."

"How odd," said Willy, "the men and women that are like coal-scuttles must look!"

"Very odd, indeed, if they looked like coal-scuttles;—but they are only of the copper colour of the coal-scuttle."

"And are the little boys copper-colour, too, Mamma?"

"To be sure," replied she, "the children are of the same colour as their fathers and mothers."

"Copper-colour!" exclaimed Willy; "that is very funny; I should like to see them. Can we go to their country?"

"No, my dear, it is too far off."

"As far off as where the negroes live?"

"Yes, and further too."

"But it is in the world, Mamma?"

"To be sure, every place is in the world."

"Oh, dear! what a great large place the world must be!" cried Willy; who found it difficult to think of any thing so immense. "I have heard Ann, and Harry too, talk about the world; but I never heard what it meant before." Then, after reflecting for some time, he added: "How can such a little sun make daylight over such a large place as the world?"

"It does not make daylight all over the world at once, you know, Willy."

"No," replied he; "half at a time; daylight in one half, and dark night in the other." As Willy was speaking, he looked out at the window to see the sun; it was just setting: "There it is going, going, going; look, Mamma, there is only a little tiny bit left; and now it is all gone. Where is it gone now, Mamma? Does it go to shine upon the negroes, or the copper-coloured people first?"

"It first makes it daylight with the copper-coloured people; and it will shine on the negroes afterwards, and then return to us." Darkness was now coming on; and Mamma told Willy, that, as he was to imitate the sun, he should go to bed.

Willy gave his Mamma a kiss; and then ran into the nursery, and said to Ann, "I am going to bed now, Ann, because the sun is gone to bed; and if you will make haste to undress me, I shall be in bed before candle-light.

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