Part 1 out of 4
AMONG THE TREES AT ELMRIDGE
ELLA RODMAN CHURCH
CHAPTER I. A SPRING OPENING.
CHAPTER II. THE MAPLES.
CHAPTER III. OLD ACQUAINTANCES: THE ELMS.
CHAPTER IV. MAJESTY AND STRENGTH: THE OAK.
CHAPTER V. BEAUTY AND GRACE: THE ASH.
CHAPTER VI. THE OLIVE TREE.
CHAPTER VII. THE USEFUL BIRCH.
CHAPTER VIII. THE POPLARS.
CHAPTER IX. ALL A-BLOW: THE APPLE TREE.
CHAPTER X. A FRUITFUL FAMILY: THE PEACH, ALMOND, PLUM AND CHERRY.
CHAPTER XI. THE CHERRY-STORY.
CHAPTER XII. THE MULBERRY FAMILY.
CHAPTER XIII. QUEER RELATIONS: THE CAOUTCHOUC AND THE MILK TREE.
CHAPTER XIV. HOME AND ABROAD: LINDEN, CAMPHOR, BEECH.
CHAPTER XV. THE TENT AND THE LOCUSTS.
CHAPTER XVI. THE WALNUT FAMILY AND THE AILANTHUS.
CHAPTER XVII. SOME BEAUTIFUL TREES: THE CHESTNUT AND HORSE-CHESTNUT.
CHAPTER XVIII. AMONG THE PINES.
CHAPTER XIX. GIANT AND NUT PINES.
CHAPTER XX. MORE WINTER TREES: THE FIRS AND THE SPRUCES.
CHAPTER XXI. THE CEDARS.
CHAPTER XXII. THE PALMS.
_A SPRING OPENING._
On that bright spring afternoon when three happy, interested children
went off to the woods with their governess to take their first lesson in
the study of wild flowers, they saw also some other things which made a
fresh series of "Elmridge Talks," and these things were found among the
trees of the roadside and forest.
"What makes it look so _yellow_ over there, Miss Harson?" asked Clara,
who was peering curiously at a clump of trees that seemed to have been
touched with gold or sunlight. "And just look over here," she continued,
"at these pink ones!"
Malcolm shouted at the idea:
"Yellow and pink trees! That sounds like a Japanese fan. Where are they,
I should like to know?"
"Here, you perverse boy!" said his governess as she laughingly turned
him around. "Are you looking up into the sky for them? There is a clump
of golden willows right before you, with some rosy maples on one side.
What other colors can you call them?"
Malcolm had to confess that "yellow and pink trees" were not so wide of
the mark, after all, and that they were very pretty. Little Edith was
particularly delighted with them, and wanted to "pick the flowers"
"They are too high for that, dear," was the reply, "and these
blossoms--for that is what they really are, although nothing more than
fringes and catkins--are much prettier massed on the trees than they
would be if gathered. The still-bare twigs and branches seem, as you
see, to be draped with golden and rose-colored veils, but there will be
no leaves until these queer flowers have dropped. If we look closely at
the twigs and branches, we shall see that they are glossy and polished,
as though they had been varnished and then brightened with color by the
painter's brush. It is the flowing of the sap that does this. The
swelling of the bark occasioned by the flow of sap gives the whole mass
a livelier hue; hence the ashen green of the poplar, the golden green of
the willow and the dark crimson of the peach tree, the wild rose and the
red osier are perceptibly heightened by the first warm days of spring."
[Illustration: MALE CATKIN OF WILLOW.]
"Miss Harson," asked Clara, with a perplexed face, "what are catkins?"
"Here," said her governess, reaching from the top bar of the road-fence
for the lowest branch of a willow tree; "examine this catkin for
yourself, and I will tell you what my _Botany_ says of it: 'An ament, or
catkin, is an assemblage of flowers composed of scales and stamens or
pistils arranged along a common thread-like receptacle, as in the
chestnut and willow. It is a kind of calyx, by some classed as a mode of
inflorescence (or flowering), and each chaffy scale protects one or more
of the stamens or pistils, the whole forming one aggregate flower. The
ament is common to forest-trees, as the oak and chestnut, and is also
found upon the willow and poplar.'"
"It's funny-looking," said Malcolm, when he had made himself thoroughly
acquainted with the appearance of the catkin, "but it doesn't look much
like a flower: it looks more like a pussy's tail."
"Yes, and that is the origin of its name. 'Catkin' is diminutive for
'cat;' so this collection of flowers is called 'catkin,' or
"I think I'll call them 'pussy-tails,'" said Edith.
"There is a great deal to be learned about trees," said Miss Harson,
when all were comfortably seated in the pleasant schoolroom; "and,
besides the natural history of their species, some old trees have
wonderful stories connected with them, while many in tropical countries
are so wonderful in themselves that they do not need stories to make
them interesting. The common trees around us will be our subjects at
first; for I suppose that you can scarcely tell a willow from a poplar,
or a chestnut tree from either, can you?"
"I can tell a chestnut tree," said Malcolm, confidently.
"When it is not the season for nuts?" asked his governess, smiling.
There was not a very positive reply to this; and Miss Harson continued:
"I do not think that any of us know as much as we ought to know of the
trees which we see every day, and of the uses to which many of them are
put, to say nothing of many familiar trees that we read about, and even
depend upon for some of the necessaries of life."
"Like the cocoanut tree," suggested Clara.
"That is not exactly necessary to our comfort, dear," was the reply,
"for people can manage to live without cocoanuts, although in many forms
they are very agreeable to the taste, and it is only the inhabitants of
the countries where they grow who look upon these trees as necessaries;
but we will take them up in their turn. And first let us find out what
we can about the willow, because it is the first tree, with us, to
become green in the spring, and, of that large class which is called
_deciduous_, the last one to lose its leaves."
"And why are they called _deciduous?_" asked Malcolm.
"Because they shed their leaves every autumn and are furnished with a
new set in the spring: 'deciduous' is Latin for 'falling off.' And this
is the case with nearly all our native trees and plants. _Persistent_,
or permanent, leaves remain on the stem and branches all through the
changes of season, like the leaves of the pine and box, while
_evergreens_ look fresh through the entire year and are generally
cone-bearing and resinous trees. 'These change their leaves annually,
but, the young leaves appearing before the old ones decay, the tree is
"Miss Harson," said Clara, "when people talk about _weeping_ willows,
what do they mean? Do the trees really cry? I sometimes read about 'em
in stories, and I never knew what they did."
"They cry dreadfully," said Malcolm, "when it rains."
"But only as you do when you are out in it," replied his governess--"by
having the water drip from your clothes.--No, Clara, the tree is called
'weeping' because it seems to 'assume the attitude of a person in tears,
who bends over and appears to droop.' The sprays of this tree are
particularly beautiful, and 'willowy' is often used for 'graceful,' as
meaning the same thing. Its language is 'sorrow,' and it is often seen
in burial-grounds and in mourning-pictures. 'We remember it in sacred
history, associating it with the rivers of Babylon, and with the tears
of the children of Israel, who sat down under the shade of this tree and
hung their harps upon its branches. It is distinguished by the graceful
beauty of its outlines, its light-green, delicate foliage, its sorrowing
attitude and its flowing drapery.'"
"Were those weeping willows that we saw to-day?" asked Clara.
"No," replied her brother, quickly; "they just stuck up straight and
didn't weep a bit."
"They are called _water_ willows," said Miss Harson, "because they are
never found in dry places. They are more common than the weeping willow.
The water willow has the same delicate foliage and the same habit, under
an April sky, of gleaming with a drapery of golden verdure among the
still-naked trees of the forest or orchard. 'When Spring has closed her
delicate flowers,' says a bright writer, 'and the multitudes that crowd
around the footsteps of May have yielded their places to the brighter
host of June, the willow scatters the golden aments that adorned it,
and appears in the deeper garniture of its own green foliage.' A group
of these golden willows, seen in a rainstorm, will have so bright an
appearance as to make it seem as if the sun were actually shining."
[Illustration: THE WHITE WILLOW (_Salix alba_).]
"I wish we had them all around here, then," said Edith; "I like to see
the sun shining when it rains."
"But the sun is _not_ shining, dear," replied her governess: "it is only
the reflection from the willows that makes it look so; and we can make
just such sunshine ourselves when it rains, or when there is dullness of
any sort, by being all the more cheerful and striving to make others
happy. Who loves to be called 'Little Sunshine'?"
"I do," said the child, caressing the hand that had patted her rosy
"Let's all be golden willows," said Malcolm, in a comical way that made
Miss Harson told him that he could not make a better attempt than to be
one of those home-brighteners who bring the sunshine with them, but she
added that such people are always considerate for others. Malcolm
wondered a little if this meant that _he_ was not, but he soon forgot it
in hearing the many things that were to be said of the willow.
"The family-name of this tree is _Salix_, from a word that means 'to
spring,' because a willow-branch, if planted, will take root and grow so
quickly that it seems almost like magic. 'And they shall _spring up_ as
among the grass, as willows by the watercourses,' says the prophet
Isaiah, speaking of the children of the people of God. The flowers of
the willow are of two kinds--one bearing stamens, and the other
pistils--and each grows upon a separate plant. When the ovary, at the
base of the pistil, is ripe, it opens by two valves and lets out, as
through a door, multitudes of small seeds covered with a fine down, like
the seeds of the cotton-plant. This downy substance is greedily sought
after by the birds as a lining for their nests, and they may be seen
carrying it away in their bills. And in some parts of Germany people
take the trouble to collect it and use it as a wadding to their winter
dresses, and even manufacture it into a coarse kind of paper."
"What queer people!" exclaimed Clara. "And how funny they must look in
their wadded dresses!"
"They are not graceful people," was the reply, "but they live in a cold
climate and show their good sense by dressing as warmly as possible. It
was quite a surprise, though, to me to find that the willow was of use
in clothing people. The more we learn of the works of God, the better we
shall understand that last verse of the first chapter of the Bible: 'And
God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.' The
bees, too, are attracted by the willow catkins, but they do not want the
down. On mild days whole swarms of them may be seen reveling in the
sweets of the fresh blossoms. 'Cold days will come long after the willow
catkins appear, and the bees will find but few flowers venturesome
enough to open their petals. They have, however, thoroughly enjoyed
their feast, and the short season of plenty will often be the means of
saving a hive from famine.'"
"Are willow baskets made of willow trees?" asked Malcolm.
"Yes," said Miss Harson. "Basket-making has been a great industry in
England from the earliest times; the ancient Britons were particularly
skillful in weaving the supple wands of the willow. They even made of
these slender stems little boats called 'coracles,' in which they could
paddle down the small rivers, and the boats could be carried on their
shoulders when they were walking on dry land."
"Just like our Indians' birch-bark canoes," said Malcolm, who was
reading about the North American Indians. "But isn't it strange, Miss
Harson, that the Indians and the Britons didn't get drowned going out in
such little light boats?"
"Their very lightness buoyed them up upon the waves," was the reply;
"but it does seem wonderful that they could bear the weight of men. The
willow, however, was also used by the Romans in making their
battle-shields, and even for the manufacture of ropes as well as
baskets. The rims of cart-wheels, too, used to be made of willow, as now
they are hooped with iron; so, you see, it is a strong wood as well as a
pliant one. The kind used for basket-making is the _Salix viminalis_,
and the rods of this species are called 'osiers.' Let us see now what
this English book says of the process of basket-making:
"'The quick and vigorous growth of the willow renders it easy to provide
materials for this branch of industry. Osier-beds are planted in every
suitable place, and here the willow-cutter comes as to an ample store.
Autumn is the season for him to ply his trade, and he cuts the willow
rods down and ties them in bundles. He then sets them up on end in
standing water to the depth of a few inches. Here they remain during the
winter, until the shoots, in the following spring, begin to sprout, when
they are in a fit state to be peeled. A machine is used in some places
to compress the greatest number of rods into a bundle.
[Illustration: THE POLLARD WILLOW IN WINTER.]
"'Aged or infirm people and women and children can earn money by peeling
willows at so much per bundle. The operation is very simple, and so is
the necessary apparatus. Sometimes a wooden bench with holes in it is
used, the willow-twigs being drawn through the holes. Another way is
to draw the rod through two pieces of iron joined together, and with one
end thrust into the ground to make it stand upright. The willow-peeler
sits down before his instrument and merely thrusts the rod between the
two pieces of iron and draws it out again. This proceeding scrapes the
bark off one end, and then he turns it and fits it in the other way; so
that by a simple process the whole rod is peeled. When the rods are
quite prepared, they are again tied up in bundles and sold to the
"But how do they make the baskets?" asked Clara and Edith. "That is the
"There is little to tell about it, though," said their governess,
"because it is such easy work that any one can learn to do it. You saw
the Indian women making baskets when papa took us to Maine last summer,
and you noticed how very quickly they did it, beginning with the flat
bottom and working rapidly up. It is a favorite occupation for the
blind, and one of the things which are taught them in asylums."
"I wonder," said Malcolm, "if there is anything else that can be done
with the willow?"
"Oh yes," replied Miss Harson; "we have not yet come to the end of its
resources. It makes the best quality of charcoal, and in many parts of
England the tree is raised for this express purpose. 'The abode of the
charcoal-burner,' says an English writer, 'may be known from a distance
by the cloud of smoke that hovers over it, and that must make it rather
unhealthy. It is sometimes a small dome-shaped hut made of green turf,
and, except for the difference of the material, might remind us of the
hut of the Esquimaux. Beside it stands a caravan like those which make
their appearance at fairs, and that contains the family goods and
chattels. A string of clothes hung out to dry, a water-tub and a rough,
shaggy dog usually complete the picture.'"
"But how can people live in the hut," asked Malcolm, "if the charcoal is
burned in it? Ugh! I should think they'd choke."
"They certainly would," said his governess; "for the charcoal-smoke is
death when inhaled for any length of time. But the charcoal-burner knows
this quite as well as does any one else, and he makes his fire outside
of the house, puts a rude fence around it and lets it smoke away like a
huge pipe. The hut is more or less enveloped in smoke, but this is not
so bad as letting it rise from the inside would be. A great deal of
willow charcoal is made in Germany and other parts of Europe."
"But, Miss Harson," said Clara, in a puzzled tone, "I don't see what
they do with it all. It doesn't take much to clean people's teeth."
"No, dear," was the smiling reply, "and I am afraid that the people who
make it are rather careless about their teeth.--You need not laugh,
Malcolm, because it is 'just like a girl,' for it is quite as much like
a boy not to know things which he has never been taught, and you must
remember that you have two years the start of your sister in getting
acquainted with the world. Perhaps you will kindly tell us of some of
the uses to which charcoal is applied?"
"Well," said the young gentleman, after an awkward silence, "it takes
lots of it to kindle fires."
"I do not think that Kitty ever uses it in the kitchen," said Miss
Harson, "for she is supplied with kindling-wood for that purpose. You
will have to think of something else."
But Malcolm could not think, and his governess finally told him that a
great deal of charcoal is used for making gun-powder, and still more for
fuel in France and the South of Europe, where a brass vessel supplies
the place of a grate or stove. Quantities of it are consumed in
steel-and iron-works, in preserving meat and other food, and in many
similar ways. The children listened with great interest, and Malcolm
felt sure that the next time he was asked about charcoal he would have a
"Our insect friends the aphides, or plant-lice, are very fond of the
willow," continued Miss Harson, "and in hot, dry weather great masses of
them gather on the leaves and drop a sugary juice, which the
country-people call 'honey-dew,' and in some remote places, where
knowledge is limited, it has been thought to come from the clouds. But
we, who have learned something about these aphides, know that it
comes from their little green bodies, and that the ants often carry the
insects off to their nests, where they feed and 'tend them for the sake
of this very juice. The aphis that infests the willow is the largest of
the tribe, and the branches and stems of the tree are often blackened by
the honey-dew that falls upon them."
 See _Flyers and Crawlers_, by the author. Presbyterian Board of
"Do willow trees grow everywhere?" asked Clara.
"They are certainly found in a great many different places," was the
reply, "and even in the warmest countries. In one of the missionary
settlements in Africa there is a solitary willow that has a story
attached to it. It was the only tree in the settlement--think what a
place that must have been!--except those the missionary had planted in
his own garden, and it would never have existed but for the laziness of
its owner. Nothing would have induced any of the natives to take the
trouble to plant a tree, and therefore the willow had not been planted.
But it happened, a long-time ago, that a native had fetched a log of
wood from a distance, to make into a bowl when he should feel in the
humor to do so. He threw the log into a pool of water, and soon forgot
all about it. Weeks and months passed, and he never felt in the humor to
work. But the log of wood set to work of its own accord. It had been cut
from a willow, and it took root at the bottom of the pool and began to
grow. In the end it became a handsome and flourishing tree."
This story was approved by the young audience, except that it was too
short; but their governess laughingly said that, as there was nothing
more to tell, it could not very well be any longer.
[Illustration: THE WEEPING WILLOW (_Salix Babylonica_).]
"The weeping willow," continued Miss Harson, "was first planted in
England in not so lazy a way, but almost as accidentally. Many years ago
a basket of figs was sent from Turkey to the poet Pope, and the basket
was made of willow. Willows and their cousins the poplars are natives of
the East; you remember that the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm
says of the captive Jews, 'By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the
willows in the midst thereof.' 'The poet valued highly the small slender
twigs, as associated with so much that was interesting, and he untwisted
the basket and planted one of the branches in the ground. It had some
tiny buds upon it, and he hoped he might be able to rear it, as none of
this species of willow was known in England. Happily, the willow is very
quick to take root and grow. The little branch soon became a tree, and
drooped gracefully over the river in the same manner that its race had
done over the waters of Babylon. From that one branch all the weeping
willows in England are descended.'"
"And then they were brought over here," said Malcolm. "But what odd
leaves they have, Miss Harson!--so narrow and long. They don't look like
the leaves of other trees."
"The leaf is somewhat like that of the olive, only that of the olive is
broader. The willow is a native of Babylon, and the weeping willow is
called _Salix Babylonica_. It was considered one of the handsomest
trees of the East, and is particularly mentioned among those which God
commanded the Israelites to select for branches to bear in their hands
at the feast of tabernacles. Read the verse, Malcolm--the fortieth of
the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus."
"'And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees,
branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and _willows of
the brook;_ and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.'"
[Illustration: LEAF OF WEEPING WILLOW.]
"A place called the 'brook of the willows,'" added his governess, "is
mentioned in Isaiah xv. 7, and this brook, according to travelers in
Palestine, flows into the south-eastern extremity of the Dead Sea. The
willow has always been considered by the poets as an emblem of woe and
desertion, and this idea probably came from the weeping of the captive
Jews under the willows of Babylon. The branches of the _Salix
Babylonica_ often droop so low as to touch the ground, and because of
this sweeping habit, and of its association with watercourses in the
Bible, it has been considered a very suitable tree to plant beside ponds
and fountains in ornamental grounds, as well as in cemeteries as an
emblem of mourning."
"How much there is to remember about the willow!" said Clara,
thoughtfully. "I wonder if all the trees will be so interesting?"
"They are not all _Bible_ trees," replied Miss Harson. "But the wise
king of Israel found them interesting, for he 'spake of trees, from the
cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of
"The pink trees next, I suppose," said Malcolm, "since we have had the
"_Real_ pink trees?" asked Edith, with very wide-open eyes.
"No, dear;" replied her governess; "there are no pink trees, except when
they are covered with bloom like the peach trees. Malcolm only means the
maples that we saw in blossom yesterday and thought of such a pretty
color. There are many varieties of the maple, which is always a
beautiful and useful tree, but the red, or scarlet, maple is the very
queen of the family. It is not so large as are most of the others; but
when a very young tree, its grace and beauty are noticeable among its
companions. It is often found in low, moist places, but it thrives just
as well in high, dry ground; and it is therefore a most convenient
tree. Here is a very pretty description, Malcolm, in one of papa's large
books, that you can read to us."
Malcolm read remarkably well for a boy of his age, and he always enjoyed
being called upon in this way.
[Illustration: THE RED MAPLE.]
Miss Harson pointed to these lines:
"Coming forth in the spring, like morning in the east, arrayed in
crimson and purple; bearing itself, not proudly but gracefully in
modest green, among the more stately trees in summer; and ere it bids
adieu to the season stepping forth in robes of gold, vermilion, crimson
and variegated scarlet,--stands the queen of the American forest, the
pride of all eyes and the delight of every picturesque observer of
nature, the red maple."
"Why, I never saw such a tree as that!" exclaimed Clara, in great
"Yes, dear," replied her governess; "you have seen it, but you never
thought of describing it to yourself in just this way. When you saw it
yesterday, it was coming forth in the spring, like morning in the east,
arrayed in crimson and purple,' but you just called it a pink tree. It
is much nearer red, however, than it is pink."
"I've seen all the rest of the colors, too," said Malcolm, "when we went
out after nuts."
"That is its autumn dress," said Miss Harson, "although a small tree is
often seen with no color on it but brilliant red. But first we must see
what it is like in spring and summer. It is also called the scarlet,
the white, the soft and the swamp maple, and the flowers, as you see
from this specimen, are in whorls, or pairs, of bright crimson, in
crowded bunches on the purple branches. The leaves are in three or five
lobes, with deep notches between, and some of them are very broad, while
others are long and narrow. The trunk of the red maple is a clear ashy
gray, often mottled with patches of white lichens; and when the tree is
old, the bark cracks and can be peeled off in long, narrow strips."
"Is anything done with the bark?" asked Clara.
"Yes, it is used, with other substances, for dyeing, and also for making
ink. The sap, too, can be boiled down to sugar, but it is not nearly so
rich as that of the proper sugar-maple. The wood, which is very
light-colored with a tinge of rose in it, is often made into common
furniture, as it takes a fine polish and is easy to work with. It is
used, too, for building-purposes. The early-summer foliage of the red
maple is of a beautiful yellow green, and the young leaves are very
delicate and airy-looking; but the graceful tree is in such a hurry to
display her gay autumn colors that she will often put on a scarlet or
crimson streamer in July or August. One brilliantly-colored branch will
be seen on a green tree, or the leaves of an entire tree will turn red
while all the other trees around it are clothed in summer greenness."
"Don't you remember, Miss Harson," said Edith, "the little tree that I
thought was on fire and how frightened I was?"
"Yes, dear, I remember it very well--an innocent little red maple that
_would_ put on its flame-colored dress when it should have been all in
green, like its sisters; but it was too green at heart to be in a blaze.
This tree is often used for fuel, but it has to be cut down and dried
first. The reddening of the leaf generally begins at the veins and
spreads out from them until the whole is tinted. Sometimes it appears in
spots, almost like drops of blood, on the green surface; but, come as it
will, it is always beautiful. It is said of the red maple that 'it
stands among the occupants of the forest like Venus among the
planets--the brightest in the midst of brightness and the most beautiful
in a constellation of beauty,'"
"Is there such a thing as a silver tree?" asked Clara.
[Illustration: THE SILVER-LEAF MAPLE.]
"There is a tree called 'the silver maple,'" was the reply, "and there
is also the silver poplar. The silver maple is considered the most
graceful of the large and handsome maple family. I have not told you, I
think, that the name of the family is _Acer_, which means 'sharp' or
'hard,' and it was supposed to have been given in old English times
when the wood of the maple was used for javelins. The silver maple gets
its name from the whitish under-surface of its leaves, and it is a
favorite shade-tree; it has a slender trunk and long, drooping branches.
The foliage is light and rather dull-looking, and it is not a very
bright tree in autumn. The leaves are so deeply notched that they have a
fringe-like appearance, and this, with its slender form and bending,
swaying habit, gives it a very graceful look."
Little Edith wished to know "if the wood was like silver," and Malcolm
asked her how she expected it to grow if it was.
But Miss Harson replied kindly,
"The silver, dear, is all in the leaves, and there is not much of it
there. The wood is white and of little use, as it is soft and
perishable; but the beauty of the finely-cut foliage, the contrast
between the green of the upper surface of the leaves and the silver
color of the lower, and the magnificent spread of the limbs of the white
maple, recommend it as an ornamental tree; and this is the purpose for
which it is intended. It is used very largely in the cities for shade
and beauty. It is often called the 'river maple,' because it is so
frequently seen on the banks of streams."
"And now," said Malcolm, "I hope there is ever so much about the
maple-sugar tree. Can't we get some this spring, Miss Harson, before
it's all gone?"
"We can certainly buy the sugar in town, Malcolm, if that is what you
mean; but it does not grow on the trees in cakes, and we shall scarcely
be able to tap the trunks and go through with the process of preparing
the sap, even if it were not too late for that. We will do what we can,
though, to become acquainted with the rock maple, that we may be able to
recognize it when we see it. When young, it is a beautiful, neat and
shapely tree with a rich, full leafy head of a great variety of forms.
It is the largest and strongest of the maples, and gives the best shade.
It can be distinguished from the other members of the family by its
leaves, in which the notch between the lobes is round instead of being
sharp, and also by their appearing at the same time with the blossoms,
which are of a yellowish-green color. The green tint of the leaves is
darker on some trees than it is on others, and in autumn they become,
often before the first touch of the frost, of a splendid orange or gold,
sometimes of a bright scarlet or crimson, color, each tree commonly
retaining from year to year the same color or colors, and differing
somewhat from every other. The most beautiful and valuable maple-wood is
taken from this tree. It is known as 'curled maple' and 'bird's-eye
maple,' and the common variety looks like satin-wood. In the curled
maple the fibres are in waves instead of in straight lines, and the
surface seems to change with alternate light and shade; in the
bird's-eye, irregular snarls of fibres look like roundish projections
rising from hollow places, each one resembling the eye of a bird.
Buckets, tubs and many useful things are made of the straight variety,
and for lasts it is considered better than any other kind of wood. The
curled and the bird's-eye are largely used for furniture."
"But isn't it a shame," said Clara, "to spoil the maple-sugar by making
the trees into chairs and things?"
"You would not think so," replied her governess, "if you needed the
'chairs and things' more than you need the sugar. But the supply of
trees seems to be sufficient for both purposes."
"Does the sugar come right out of the tree when people tap on it with a
hammer?" asked Edith, whose ideas of sugar-making were rather crude.
"You blessed baby!" cried Malcolm, with a shout of laughter. Let's take
our hammers and go after some maple-sugar right away."
"No, Edie," said Miss Harson as she took her much-loved little pupil on
her lap; "we'll stay at home and learn just how the sugar is made. To
_tap_ a tree, dear, means to make cuts in the trunk for the sap to flow
out, and in the sugar-maple this sap is more like water than sugar. From
the middle of February to the second week in March, according to the
warmth or the coldness of the locality, is the time for tapping the
trees; and when the holes are bored, spouts of elder or sumac from which
the pith has been taken are put into them at one end, while the other
goes down to the bucket which receives the sap. 'Several holes are so
bored that their spouts shall lead to the same bucket, and high enough
to allow the bucket to hang two or three feet from the ground, to
prevent leaves and dirt from being blown in.' The next thing is to boil
the sap, and this is done in great iron kettles, over immense
wood-fires, out there among the trees, with plenty of snow on the
ground, and only two or three rude little cabins for the men and boys to
sleep in. This is called 'the sugar-camp,' and the sap-season lasts five
or six weeks."
"And why is it boiled?"
"Boiling drives the water off in vapor, and leaves the sugar behind in
"And do they stay in the woods there all the time?" asked Malcolm, with
great interest. "What lots of fun they must have, with the big fires and
the snow and as much maple-sugar as ever they want to eat! _I'd_ like
to stay in a sugar-camp in the woods."
[Illustration: MAKING MAPLE SUGAR.]
"Perhaps not, after trying it and finding how much hard work there is in
sugar-making," replied his governess. "'The kettles must be carefully
watched and plenty of wood brought to keep them boiling, and during the
process the sap, or syrup, is strained; lime or salaeratus is added, to
neutralize the free acid; and the white of egg, isinglass or milk, to
cause foreign substances to rise in a scum to the surface. When it has
been sufficiently boiled, the syrup is poured into moulds or casks to
harden.' The sugar with which the most pains have been taken is very
light-colored, and I have seen it almost white."
"Have you ever been to a sugar-camp, Miss Harson?" asked Clara, who was
wishing, like Malcolm, that she could go to one herself.
"Yes," said Miss Harson; "I did go once, in Vermont, when the family
with whom I was staying took me to see the 'sugaring off.' This is
putting it into the pans and buckets to harden after it has been
sufficiently boiled and clarified; and we younger ones, by way of
amusement, were allowed to make jack-wax."
"Oh!" exclaimed three voices at once; "what is that? Is it good to eat?"
"I thought it particularly good," was the reply, "and I am quite sure
that you would agree with me. To make it, we poured a small quantity of
hot syrup on the snow to cool; and when it was fit to eat, it was just
like wax, instead of being hard like the cakes in moulds. It took only a
few minutes, too, to make it, and it seemed a great deal nicer because
we did it ourselves. I remember that it was the last of March and very
cold, but there were big fires to get warmed at, and we had a
"Were there any Indians there, Miss Harson?" asked little Edith, after
being quiet for some time. Vermont was such a long way off on the map,
besides being up almost at the top, that Indians and bears and all sorts
of wild things seemed to have a right to live there.
"No," said her governess, smiling at the question; "I did not see one,
even at the sugar-camp. Yet the Indians made maple-sugar long before we
knew anything about it, and from them the white people learned how to
"Well, that's the funniest thing!" exclaimed Malcolm. "I thought that
Indians were always scalping people instead of making maple-sugar."
"They did a great many other things, though, besides fighting, and their
life was spent so much out of doors that they studied the nature of
every plant and living thing about them. The healing-properties of some
of our most valuable herbs were first discovered by the Indians, and, as
they never had any grocery-stores, the presence of trees that would
supply them with sugar was a blessing not likely to be neglected. The
devoted missionary John Brainerd first heard of this tree-sugar from
them, and it is said that he used to preach to them when they were thus
peacefully employed, and obtained a better hearing than at other times."
"Have we any maple-sugar trees?" asked Clara.
"No," replied Miss Harson; "there are none at Elmridge, and I have seen
none anywhere near here. They seem to flourish best in the Northern and
North-eastern States, while in Western Canada the tree is found in
groves of from five to twenty acres. These are called 'sugar-bushes,'
and few farmers in that part of America are without them. In England the
maple trees are called 'sycamores,' and the sap is used as a sweet
drink. I will read to you from a little English book called _Voices from
the Woodlands_ a simple account of a country festival where maple sap
was the choicest refreshment:
"'"Take care of that young tree," said Farmer Robinson to his laborer,
who was diligently employed in clearing away a rambling company of
brambles which had grown unmolested during the time of the last tenant;
"the soil is good, and in a very few years we shall have pasturage for
our bees, and plenty of maple-wine."
"'The farmer spoke true; before his young laborer had attained middle
age the sapling had grown into a fine tree. Its branches spread wide and
high, and bees came from all parts to gather their honey-harvests among
the flowers; beneath its shade lambkins were wont in spring to sleep
beside their dams; and when the time of shearing came, and the sheep
were disburdened of their fleeces, you might see them hastening to the
sycamore tree for shelter.
"'A kind of rustic festival was held about the same time in honor of the
maple-wine. Hither came the farmer and his dame, with their children and
young neighbors, each carrying bunches of flowers. Older people came in
their holiday dresses, some with baskets containing cakes, others tea
and sugar, with which the farmer and his wife had plentifully supplied
them; and joyfully did they rest a while on the green sward while young
men gathered sticks, and, a bright fire having been kindled, the kettle
sent up its bubbling steam.
"'When this was ended, and few of the piled-up cakes remained--when,
also, the young children had emptied their cans and rinsed them at the
old stone trough into which rushed a full stream--tiny hands joyfully
held up the small cans and bright eyes looked anxiously to the stem of
the tall tree while the farmer warily cut an incision in the bark.
"'What joy when a sweet watery juice began to trickle! and the farmer
filled one small cup, then another, till all were satisfied and a
portion sent to the older people, who were contentedly looking on from
the grassy slope where they had seated themselves. The farmer's wife
knew naught concerning the process for obtaining sugar, or else she
might have sweetened her children's puddings from the watery liquid
yielded by the sycamore, or greater maple--an art well known to the
aboriginal tribes of North America.'"
"Does that mean Indians, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm, with a wry face at
the long word.
"Yes," was the reply; "and I hope that you will feel properly grateful
to these aborigines whenever you eat maple-sugar."
_OLD ACQUAINTANCES: THE ELMS._
Miss Harson had admonished her little flock that they must use their own
eyes and be able to tell her things instead of depending altogether on
her to tell them; so now they were all peering curiously among the trees
to see which were putting on their new spring suits. The yellow trees
and the pink trees had been readily distinguished, but, although the
others had not been idle, it was not so easy for little people to
discern their leaf-buds.
Clara soon made a discovery, however, of what her governess had noticed
for a day or two, and the wonder was found on their own home-elms, those
stately trees which had shaded the house ever since it was built, and
from which the place got its pretty name--Elmridge.
"Well, dear," said Miss Harson, coming to the upper window from which an
eager head was thrust, "what is it that you wish me to see?"
"Those funny flowers on the bare elm trees," was the reply. "Look, Miss
Harson! Didn't I see them first?"
"You have certainly spoken of them first, for neither Malcolm nor Edith
has said anything about them. But they must both come up here now, where
they can see them, and Malcolm and I can manage to reach some of the
blossoms by getting out of the broad window on to the little balcony."
Up came the two children kangaroo-fashion in a series of jumps, and
presently Miss Harson was holding a cluster of dark maroon-colored
flowers in her hand.
"How queer and dark they make the trees look!" said Malcolm; "and
they're so thick that they 'most cover up the branches. They're
"A very good description," replied his governess. "And now I wish you
all to examine the trees very thoroughly and tell me afterward what you
have noticed about them; then we will go down to the schoolroom and see
what the books will tell us in our talk about the American elm and its
cousin of England."
The books had a great deal to tell about them, but Miss Harson preferred
to hear the children first.
"What did my little Edith see when she looked out of the window?" she
"Stems of trees," was the reply, "with flowers on 'em."
"A very good general idea," continued Miss Harson, "but perhaps Clara
can tell us something more particular about the elms?"
"They are very tall," said Clara, hesitatingly, "and they make it nice
and shady in summer; and some of the branches bend over in such a lovely
way! Papa calls one of them 'the plume.'"
"And now Malcolm?"
"The trunk--or big 'stem,' as Edie would call it--is very thick, and the
branches begin low down, near the ground."
"Some of them do," said his governess, "but many of the elms on your
father's grounds are seventy feet high before the branches begin.
Sometimes two or three trunks shoot up together and spread out at the
top in light, feathery plumes like palm trees. The elm has a great
variety of shapes; sometimes it is a parasol, when a number of branches
rise together to a great height and spread out suddenly in the shape of
an umbrella. This makes a very regular-looking and beautiful tree. For
about three-quarters of the way up, the 'plume' of which Clara speaks
has one straight trunk, which then bends over droopingly. Small twigs
cluster around the trunk all the way from bottom to top and give the
tree the appearance of having a vine twining about it. I think that the
plume-shape is the prettiest and most odd-looking of all the elms.
Another strange shape is the vase, which seems to rest on the roots that
stand out above the ground. 'The straight trunk is the neck of the vase,
and the middle consists of the lower part of the branches as they swell
outward with a graceful curve, then gradually diverge until they bend
over at their extremities and form the lip of the vase by a circle of
"Have we any trees that look like vases, Miss Harson?" asked Clara.
"Yes," was the reply; "not far from Hemlock Lodge there is one which we
will look at when the leaves are all out. But you must not expect to
find a perfect vase-shape, for it is only an approach to it. The
dome-shaped elm has a broad, round head, which is formed by the shooting
forth of branches of nearly equal length from the same part of the
trunk, which gradually spread outward with a graceful curve into the
roof or dome that crowns the tree."
"I know something else about our elms," said Malcolm: "some of the roots
are on top of the ground. Isn't that very queer, Miss Harson?"
[Illustration: WYCH-ELM LEAVES.]
"Not for old elm trees, as this is quite a habit with them. Indeed, in
many ways, the elm is so entirely different from other trees that it can
be recognized at a great distance. It is both graceful and majestic,
and is the most drooping of the drooping trees, except the willow, which
it greatly surpasses in grandeur and in the variety of its forms. The
green leaves are broad, ovate, heart-shaped, from two to four or five
inches long. You can see their exact shape in this illustration. Their
summer tint is very bright and vivid, but it turns in autumn to a sober
brown, sometimes touched with a bright golden yellow, And now,"
continued Miss Harson, "we will examine the flowers which we have here,
and we see that each blossom is on a green, slender thread less than
half an inch long, and that it consists of a brown cup parted into
seven or eight divisions, rounded at the border and containing about
eight brown stamens and a long compressed ovary surmounted by two short
styles. This ripens into a flattened seed-vessel before the leaves are
fully out, and the seeds, being small and chaffy, are wafted in all
directions and carried to great distances by the wind."
"Where does slippery elm come from?" asked Clara.
"From another American species, dear, which is very much like the white
elm that we have been considering. The slippery elm is a smaller tree,
does not droop so much, and the trunk is smoother and darker. The leaves
are thicker and very rough on the upper side. The inner bark contains a
great deal of mucilage--that, I suppose, is the reason for its being
called 'slippery'--and it has been extensively used as a medicine. The
wood is very strong and preferred to that of the white elm for
building-purposes, although the latter is considered the best native
wood for hubs of wheels. There is a great elm tree on Boston Common
which is over two hundred years old, and another in Cambridge called the
'Washington Elm,' because near it or beneath its shade General
Washington is said to have first drawn his sword on taking command of
the American army. In 1744 the celebrated George Whitefield preached
beneath this tree."
"I'm glad we have elm trees here," said Malcolm, "though I s'pose nobody
ever did anything in particular under ours."
"You mean," replied his governess, laughing, "that they are not
_historical_ trees; but they are certainly very fine ones. There is
another species of elm, the English, which is often seen in this country
too. It is a very large and stately tree, but not so graceful as our own
elm. It is distinguished from the American elm by its bark, which is
darker and much more broken; by having one principal stem, which soars
upward to a great height; and by its branches, which are thrown out more
boldly and abruptly and at a larger angle. Its limbs stretch out
horizontally or tend upward with an appearance of strength to the very
extremity; in the American elm they are almost universally drooping at
the end. Its leaves are closer, smaller, more numerous and of a darker
color. In England this tree is a great favorite with those black and
solemn birds the rooks. The poet Hood writes of it as
"'The tall, abounding elm that grows
In hedgerows up and down,
In field and forest, copse and park,
And in the peopled town,
With colonies of noisy rooks
That nestle on its crown.'
"Some of these English elms are very ancient and of an immense size; one
of them, known as the 'Chequer Elm,' measures thirty-one feet around the
trunk, of which only the shell is left. It was planted seven hundred
years ago. The Chipstead Elm is fifteen feet around; the Crawley Elm,
thirty-five. A writer says, 'The ample branches of the Crawley Elm
shelter Mayday gambols while troops of rustics celebrate the opening of
green leaves and flowers. Yet not alone beneath its shade, but within
the capacious hollow which time has wrought in the old tree, young
children with their posies and weak and aged people find shelter during
the rustic _fetes_.'"
"Does that mean that people can sit inside the tree?" asked Clara. "I
wish we had one to play house in where Hemlock Lodge is."
"That is one of the things, Clara," replied Miss Harson, "that people
can have only in the place where they grow. In the South of England
there is another great elm tree with a hollow trunk which has fitted
into it a door fastened by a lock and key. A dozen people can be
comfortably accommodated inside, and there is a story told of a woman
and her infant who lived there for a time."
"What a funny house!" said Malcolm. "Just like a woodpecker's."
"Another great elm, near London, has a winding staircase cut within it,
and a turret at the top where at least twenty persons can stand. One
species of this tree, called the _wych-_, or _witch-_, elm, was believed
by ignorant people to possess magical powers and to defend from the
malice of witches the place on which it grew. Even now it is said that
in remote parts of England the dairymaid flies to it as a resource on
the days when she churns her butter. She gathers a twig from the tree
and puts it into a little hole in the churn. If this practice were
neglected, she confidently believes that she might go on churning all
day without getting any butter."
"Isn't that silly?" exclaimed Clara.
"Very silly indeed," replied her governess; "but we must remember that
the poor ignorant girl knows no better. The wood of the European elm is
stronger than ours; it is hard and fine-grained, and brownish in color,
and is much used in the building of ships, for hubs of wheels, axletrees
and many other purposes. In France the leaves and shoots are used to
feed cattle. In Russia the leaves of one variety are made into tea. The
inner bark is in some places made into mats, and in Norway they
kiln-dry it and grind it with corn as an ingredient in bread. So that
the elm tree is almost as useful as it is beautiful."
_MAJESTY AND STRENGTH: THE OAK_.
"Here," said Miss Harson, "is a small branch from an oak tree containing
the young leaves and the catkins, which come out together; for the oak
belongs, like the willow and the maple, to the division of
"Oh dear!" sighed Clara at the hard name.
But Malcolm repeated:
"_Amentaceous_--_ament_. I know, Miss Harson: it's _catkins_"
"Yes, it means trees which produce their flowers in catkins, or looking
as if strung on long drooping stems; and the oak is the monarch of this
family, and in Great Britain of all the forest-trees. It is especially
an English tree, although our woods contain several varieties. But they
do not hold the pre-eminence in our forests that the oaks do in those
of England. The oak ordinarily runs more to breadth than to height, and
spreads itself out to a vast distance with an air of strength and
grandeur. This is its striking character and what gives it its peculiar
appearance. Oaks do not always go straight out, but crook and bend to
right and left, upward and downward, abruptly or with a gentle sweep.
[Illustration: MALE CATKIN OF THE OAK.]
[Illustration: THE OAK]
"The white oak is the handsomest species, and takes its name from the
very light color of the bark on the trunk, by which it is easily known.
The leaves are long in proportion to the width and deeply divided into
lobes, of which there are three or four on each side. There is a great
variety in the shape of oak-leaves, those of our white oak being long
and slender, while the red oak has very broad ones, and the foliage of
the scarlet oak is almost skeleton-like. The chestnut oak has leaves
almost exactly like those of the chestnut. The acorns of the different
varieties, too, differ in size and shape.
[Illustration: WHITE-OAK LEAF.]
"There is so much to be said of the oak," continued Miss Harson, "it is
such an ancient and venerable tree and has so many stories attached to
it, that it is not easy to begin an account of it. The blossoms,
perhaps, will be the best starting-point: and I should like to have you
examine this branch and tell me if you see any difference in the
"They are nearly all alike," said Malcolm, "but here at the ends of the
twigs are one or two that look like buds."'
"That is just what I wanted you to notice," replied his governess, "for
the flowers are of two kinds, one bearing the stamens, and the other the
pistils. The flowers that bear the stamens grow on loose scaly catkins,
as you may see in this branch. Those with the pistils are also in
catkins, but very small, like a bud. The bud spreads into a little
branchlet and bears the flowers at the tip. The calyx is not seen at
first; it is a mere membrane covering the ovary. By degrees the ovary
swells into the acorn and the membrane becomes part of the shell."
"I like acorns," said little Edith, "they're so nice to play with."
"But they're not nice to eat," said Clara.
[Illustration: SQUIRREL AND ACORN]
"Some animals think they are," continued Miss Harson. "If you should
come here in October, you would find the squirrels feasting on them. In
old times in England the oaks were valued highly on account of their
acorns, and great herds of swine were driven into the forests to feed
upon them. In the time of the Saxons a crop of acorns often formed a
part of the dowry bestowed upon the Saxon queens, and the king himself
would be glad to accept a gift or grant of acorns; and the failure of
the crop would be considered as a kind of famine. In those days laws
were made to protect the oaks from being felled or injured, and a man
who cut down a tree under the shadow of which thirty hogs could stand
was fined three pounds. The herds of swine were placed under the care of
a swineherd, whose sole employment was to keep them together, and they
formed a staple part of the riches of the country. But when the Norman
kings began to rule, they brought with them a passionate love of hunting
and took possession of the forests as preserves for their favorite
sport. The herds of swine were forbidden to roam about as heretofore,
and their owners were reduced to poverty in consequence."
"Wasn't that wicked, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm.
"Yes; it was both unjust and cruel, and it was one of the great
grievances of the nation. Even at this day the laws for the protection
of game are one of the grounds of ill-feeling on the part of the poor
toward the nobles. In Spain the acorns have the taste of nuts, and are
sold in the markets as an article of food. They grow abundantly in the
woods and forests. Once, in time of war, a foreign army subsisted almost
entirely on them. Herds of swine range the forests in Spain and feed
luxuriously upon acorns, and the salted meats of Malaga, that are famous
for their delicate flavor, are thought to owe it to this cause. Some of
our American Indians depend upon acorns and fish for their winter food;
and when the acorns drop from the tree, they are buried in sand and
soaked in water to draw out the bitter taste."
"I shouldn't like them," said Clara, with a wry face at the thought of
"Well, dear," replied her governess, laughing, "as you are not an
Indian, you will probably not be called upon to like them; but it would
be better to eat acorns than to starve. You may have noticed the trunk
and branches of the oak are often gnarled and knotted, and this helps to
give the tree its appearance of great strength. It is just as strong as
it looks, and for building-purposes it lasts longer than any other
wood. Beams and rafters of oak are found in old English houses, showing
among the brick-work, and many of these half-timbered houses, as they
are called, were built hundreds of years ago.
"Bedsteads and other articles of furniture, too, were 'built' in those
days, rather than made, for they were not expected to be moved about;
and a heavy oak bedstead is still in existence which is said to have
belonged to King Richard III. It is curiously carved, and the king
rested upon it the night before the battle of Bosworth Field, where he
was killed. Clumsy as the bedstead was, he took it about with him from
place to place; but after the fatal battle it passed into the hands of
various owners, and nothing remarkable was discovered about it until the
king had been dead a hundred years. By that time the bedstead had come
into the possession of a woman who found a fortune in it. One morning,
says the story, as she was making the bed, she heard a chinking sound,
and saw, to her great delight, a piece of money drop on the floor. Of
course she at once set about examining the bedstead, and found that the
lower part of it was hollow and contained a treasure. Three hundred
pounds--a fortune in those days--was brought to light, having remained
hidden all those years. As King Richard was not there to claim his gold,
the woman quickly possessed herself of it. But, as it happened, she had
better have remained in ignorance and poverty. As soon as the matter
became known one of her servants robbed her of the gold, and even caused
her death. Thus it was said in the neighborhood that 'King Richard's
gold' did nobody any good."
The children were very much pleased with this story, and Malcolm said
that he always liked to hear about people who found gold and things.
"I think that I do, myself," replied Miss Harson, "although, as in this
poor woman's case and in many others, gold is not the best thing to
find. It often brings with it so much sorrow and sin as to be a curse to
its owner. The only safe treasure is that laid up in heaven, where
'neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break
through nor steal,'
"From the very earliest times the oak has been used for shipbuilding.
The Saxons, we are told, kept a formidable fleet of vessels with curved
bottoms and the prow and poop adorned with representations of the head
and tail of some grotesque and fabulous creature. King Alfred had many
vessels that carried sixty oars and were entirely of oak. A vessel
supposed to be of his time has been discovered in the bed of a river in
Kent, and after the lapse of so many centuries it is as sound as ever
and as hard as iron."
"Do oak trees ever have apples on 'em?" asked Clara. "In a story that I
read there was something about 'oak-apples.'"
[Illustration: THE OAK-GALL INSECT (_Cynips_).]
"They are not apples such as we eat, or fruit in any sense," said her
governess. "They are the work of a species of fly called _Cynips_, which
is very apt to attack the oak. 'The female insect is armed with a sharp
weapon called an _ovipositor_, which she plunges into a leaf and makes
a wound. Here she lays her eggs; and when she has done so, she flies
away and we hear no more of her. But the wound she has made disturbs the
circulation of the sap. It flows round and round the eggs as though it
had met with some foreign body it would fain remove. Very soon the eggs
are in the midst of a ball-like and fleshy chamber--the most suitable
provision for them, and one which the parent-insect had provided by
means of puncturing the leaf. As the eggs are hatched the grubs will
find themselves safely housed and in the midst of an abundance
"Well," exclaimed Malcolm, in great disgust, "_apple_ is a queer name
for a ball full of little flies!"
"It's a very pretty ball, though," said Miss Harson, "with a smooth skin
and tinged with red or yellow, like a ripe apple. If it is cut open, a
number of granules are seen, each containing a grub embedded in a
fruit-like substance. The grub undergoes its transformation, and in due
course emerges a perfect insect. These pretty pink-and-white apples used
to be gathered by English boys on the twenty-ninth of May, which was
called 'Oak-Apple Day.'"
"Did they eat 'em?" asked Edith.
"I do not see how they could, dear," was the reply; "they were probably
gathered just to look at. Yet 'May-apples,' which grow, you will
remember, on the wild azalea and the swamp honeysuckle, are often eaten,
and they are formed in the same way; so we will not be too positive
about the oak-apples."
"What are oak-_galls_, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm. "Are they the same
"Not quite the same," was the reply, although both are produced by the
same insect. This is what one of our English books says of them: 'When
the acorn itself is wounded, it becomes a kind of monstrosity, and
remains on the stalk like an irregularly-shaped ball. It is called a
"nut-gall," and is found principally on a small oak, a native of the
southern and central parts of Europe. All these oak-apples and nut-galls
are of importance, but the latter more especially, and they form an
important article of commerce. A substance called "gallic acid" resides
in the oak; and when the puncture is made by the cynips, it flows in
great abundance to the wound. Gallic acid is one of the ingredients used
in dyeing stuffs and cloths, and therefore the supply yielded by the
nut-gall is highly welcome. The nut-galls are carefully collected from
the small oak on which they are found, the Pyreneean oak. It is easily
known by the dense covering of down on the young leaves, that appear
some weeks later than the leaves of the common oak. The galls are
pounded and boiled, and into the infusion thus made the stuffs about to
be dyed are dipped,'"
"I should think," said Clara, "that people would plant oak trees
everywhere, when they are so useful. Is anything done with the bark?"
"Yes," said her governess; "the bark, which is very rough, is valuable
for tanning leather and for medicine. The element which has the effect
of turning raw hide or skin into leather is called _tannin_; it is also
found in the bark of some other trees and in tropical plants."
"Didn't people use to worship oak trees," asked Malcolm--"people who
lived ever so long ago?"
"You are thinking of the Druids, who lived in old times in Britain and
Gaul," replied Miss Harson, "and whose strange heathen rites were
practiced in oak-groves; and they really did consider the tree sacred.
These Druids have left their traces in some parts of England and France
in rows of huge stones set upright; and wherever an immense stone was
found lying on two others, in the shape of a table, there had been a
Druid altar, where the priest offered sacrifices, often of human beings.
So horrible may be a so-called religion that men themselves devise,
and that has not come from the true God.
[Illustration: DRUIDIC SACRIFICE.]
"It was an article in the Druids' creed, and one to which they strictly
adhered, that no temple with a covered roof was to be built in honor of
the gods. All the places appointed for public worship were in the open
air, and generally on some eminence from which the moon and stars might
be observed; for to the heavenly bodies much adoration was offered. But
to afford shelter from wind or rain, and also to ensure privacy and shut
out all external objects, the place fixed upon, either for teaching
their disciples or for carrying out the rites of their idolatrous
worship, was in the recess of some grove or wood. An oak-grove was
supposed to be the favorite of the gods whom they ignorantly worshiped,
and therefore the Druids declared the oak to be a sacred tree. The Druid
priest always bound a wreath of oak-leaves on his forehead before he
would perform any religious ceremony. One of these ceremonies was to go
in search of the mistletoe, which sometimes grows on the oak and was
considered as sacred as the tree itself, being much used in their
worship. One priest would climb to the branch on which the misletoe was
growing and cut it with a golden knife, while another priest stood below
and held out his white robe to receive it.
"These sacred groves were all cut down by the Romans, who waged fierce
war against the Druids, and nothing is left of them now but the circles
of stones that formed their temples. At a place called Stonehenge,
'cromlechs,' or altar-tables, are still standing, and very ancient oaks
stood in a circle round these stones for many centuries after the Druids
were swept away."
"Miss Harson," said Clara when all had expressed their horror of the
Druids and rejoiced that they _were_ swept away, "are there any oak
trees in the Bible?"
"Look and see," was the reply; "and first you may find Genesis xxxv. 4."
"'And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their
hands, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid
them under the _oak_ which was by Shechem.'"
"In the eighth verse of the same chapter," said Miss Harson, "we read
that Rebekah's nurse was buried under an oak at Bethel. We are told in
the book of Joshua that 'Joshua took a great stone and set it up
there under an _oak_, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord;' and in
Judges, 'There came an angel of the Lord and sat under an _oak_ which
was in Ophrah.'--Malcolm, you may read Second Samuel, eighteenth
chapter, ninth verse."
 Josh. xxiv. 26.
 Judg. vi. II.
"'And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule,
and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great _oak_, and his head
caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the
earth; and the mule that was under him went away.'"
"Poor Absalom!" said Edith, softly. "Wasn't that dreadful?"
"Yes, dear," replied her governess, "it _was_ dreadful; but it is still
more dreadful that Absalom was such a wicked man. In Isaiah we read
of the oaks of Bashan, that, like the cedars of Lebanon, were 'high and
lifted up,' and the oaks of Bashan are mentioned again in Zechariah.
Several varieties of the oak are found in Palestine.
 Isa. ii. 13.
 Zech. xi. 2.
[Illustration: ABRAHAM'S OAK, NEAR HEBRON.]
"In his _Ride Through Palestine_, Dr. Dulles tells of a great oak near
Hebron known as 'Abraham's oak,' supposed to occupy the ground where the
patriarch pitched his tent under the oaks of Mamre. It is an aged tree,
and a grand one. Here is a picture of it, from the _Ride_. The crests
and sides of the hills beyond the Jordan are still clothed, as in
ancient times, with magnificent oaks.
 See page 85
"We get a good idea of the strength and durability of this wood from the
fact that there is an old wooden church near Ongar, in Essex, the nave
of which is composed of half logs of oak roughly fastened by wooden
pegs. The ancient fabric dates back to the time of King Edmund, who was
slain by the robber Leolf in the year A.D. 946. The oaken church was
hurriedly put together--according to report--in order to make a
temporary receptacle for the body of the murdered prince on its way to
burial. Be that as it may, it was afterward used as a parish church,
and, though the oaken logs are corroded by the weather, they are still
sound, and, having been beaten by the storms of a thousand winters, bid
fair to defy those of a thousand more."
"I should think, then," said Malcolm, "that people would always build
their houses with oak if it lasts so long."
"Yet they do not do this even in England," was the reply, "where the
trees grow to such an immense size and the ancient buildings still in
existence prove the great endurance of the oak. Now brick and stone and
iron are used, which outlast any wood. And now," continued Miss Harson,
"I am going to tell you something about a foreign species of this tree
which I am sure will surprise you. It is found in the South of Europe
and in Algeria, and is called the _cork oak_."
"'The _cork_ oak'!" exclaimed Clara, quite as much surprised as she was
expected to be. "Do the corks that come in bottles grow on it?"
"Not just in that shape, dear, but they are made from its bark. The
outside bark, or _epidermis_, consists of a thin, transparent,
tissue-like substance, which covers not only the bark, but the whole of
the tree, stem, leaves and branches, and beneath the epidermis is found
a layer of cellular tissue, generally green. It covers the trunk and
branches, fills up the spaces between the veins of the leaves and
contains the sap, which flows in canals arranged for it in the most
beautiful and wonderful manner. In one species of oak this layer--which
is called the _suber_--assumes a peculiar character and is of remarkable
thickness. When the tree is some five years old, its whole energy is
directed toward the increase of the suber. A mass of cells is formed
with great rapidity, and layer upon layer is added, until that part of
the trunk grows so unwieldy that it would crack and split of its own
accord. But such a thing is rarely allowed to happen: the suber is of
too much value to man. After it is taken from the tree and has undergone
due preparation, it appears in our shops and houses under the name
"I should like to see how they get it," said Malcolm.
"The trunk is regularly marked around in deep cuts, which begin close
to the branches and go down almost to the roots. A ladder is used to
mount to the upper part of the trunk, and the cuts, or incisions, are
made with a long knife or with an axe. Then they strip off the sheets of
cork between the circles. This operation is a very delicate one, and
requires much care and skill lest the inner part should be injured. If
the operation is carried out successfully, the cork-like substance will
grow again and become as abundant as ever.
"The next thing to be done to the pieces of bark is partially to burn,
or char, them, and also to make them quite flat, as they come from the
trunk in a rounded shape. The burning makes the pores close up, so that
the liquid in a vessel for which it is used as a stopper cannot come
through; and this is done over a brisk fire, in what is called a
_burning-yard_. Another process, called _rounding_, removes every trace
of the fire, unless the cork has been too much burned, and then, having
already been flattened by the pressure of heavy stones, it is ready for
the cork-maker, who cuts the material first into strips and then into
squares according to the size of corks wanted.
"Cork is very light and elastic, and can be used successfully in
contrivances for the rescue of men from the perils of the deep. The cork
jacket and the lifeboat have been the means of saving many lives, for
cork will float on the surface of the water and bear up the person
wearing the jacket and the shipwrecked people in the lifeboat. 'The
shallowness of the boat and the bulk of cork within allow but little
room for water; so that even when filled it is in no danger of
overturning or sinking, like other crafts. Also, the lifeboat can move
across the waves with perfect safety, and can make its way from one
object to another in a broken sea as easily as an ordinary boat can pass
from one ship to another.'"
The children declared that the cork-oak was the best tree of all, but
they agreed with their governess that the entire oak family was made up
of grand and useful trees.
"Our American oaks," said Miss Harson, "are very handsome in autumn
because of their brilliant foliage; the _scarlet oak_, which turns to a
deep crimson and keeps its leaves longer than any of the other forest
trees, is the most showy of the species. But we have no cork oaks, and
no oaks that we know to be a thousand years old. There was once a famous
oak in this country, called the 'Charter Oak,' which fell to the ground
in August, 1856, before any of us were born. I wonder if you would like
to hear the story about it?"
This question was thought extremely funny by three such devourers of
stories as the little Kyles, and they eagerly assured their governess
that they would like it.
"If that is really the case," continued Miss Harson, smiling at the
excited faces, "I must tell you the history of
"THE CHARTER OAK.
"This tree grew in Hartford, Connecticut, and it is said that before the
English governor Wyllis went there to live his steward, whom he had
sent on before to get a house ready for him, came near cutting down this
very oak. He was clearing away the trees around it on the hillside when
a party of Indians appeared and begged him to leave that particular
tree, because, they said, 'it had been the guide of their ancestors for
centuries.' So the oak was spared; even then it was old and hollow.
"King Charles II. granted the people of Connecticut a very liberal
charter of rights, which was publicly read in the Assembly at Hartford
and declared to belong for ever to them and their successors. A
committee was appointed to take charge of it, under a solemn oath that
they would preserve this palladium of the rights of the people.
"When James II., the tyrannical brother of Charles II., came to the
throne, he changed the government of New England and ordered the people
of Connecticut to give up their charter. This they refused to do; and
when a third command from the king had been sent to them, they called a
special meeting of the Assembly, under their own governor, Treat, and
resolved to hold on to the charter which had been given them.
"On the 31st of October, 1687, Sir Edmund Andros, attended by members of
his council and a bodyguard of sixty soldiers, entered Hartford to take
the charter by force. The General Assembly was in session; he was
received with courtesy, but with coldness. He entered the assembly-room
and publicly demanded the charter. Remonstrances were made, and the
session was protracted till evening. The governor and his associates
appeared to yield. The charter was brought in and laid upon the table.
Sir Edmund thought that he had succeeded, when suddenly the lights were
all put out, and total darkness followed. There was no noise, no
conflict, but all was quiet. When the candles were again lighted, _the
charter was gone_! Sir Edmund was disconcerted. He declared the
government of Connecticut to be in his own hands, and that the colony
was annexed to Massachusetts and the other New England colonies, and
proceeded to appoint officers. Captain Jeremiah Wadsworth, a patriot of
those times, had hidden the charter in the hollow of Wyllis's oak,
whence it was afterward known as the Charter Oak."
"Then the English governor couldn't get it!" exclaimed Malcolm,
delightedly. "Wasn't that splendid?"
"It was a grand hiding-place, certainly, for no one would think of
looking inside a tree for such a thing as that, and they were grand men
who preserved their country's liberties in those trying times. But more
peaceful years were at hand. About eighteen months after the charter had
disappeared so mysteriously, the tyrant James II. was compelled to give
up his throne to his daughter and son-in-law, the prince and princess of
Orange, and Governor Treat and his associates again took the government
of Connecticut under the old charter, which the hollow oak had
faithfully kept from harm. No tree in our whole country has received
more attention than this historic Hartford oak; and when, at last, its
mere shell of a trunk was laid low by a storm, it seemed as if a large
part of the city had been swept away.
"Ancient oaks are apt to be almost entirely without branches; the huge
trunk, with an opening at the top, and often with one also at the
bottom, stands like a maimed giant, just tottering, perhaps, to its
fall, because of the decay going on within, while outside all seems fair
and sound. It was so with the Charter Oak; and when this monarch of the
forest was unexpectedly laid low, rich and poor, great and small, were
gathered to mourn its loss. A dirge was played and all the bells in the
city were tolled at sundown, for this monument of the past was a link
gone that could not be replaced."
"Thank you, Miss Harson," said Clara; "_true_ stories are so nice! But I
wish I had seen the Charter Oak before it was blown down."
"You could not have done that, dear," was the reply, "unless you had
been born about thirty years sooner."
_BEAUTY AND GRACE: THE ASH_.
"What tree comes next, Miss Harson?" asked Clara, on an April day that
was mild enough for the piazza. "You told us so many interesting things
about the oak that I suppose we needn't expect to hear of another tree
"No," was the reply; "not just like that, perhaps, for the oak is grand
and venerable above all our familiar trees, but the ash, which is more
especially an American tree, belongs to a large and interesting family,
and I am quite sure that you will very much like to hear something about
it. I have put it next to the oak because there is a sort of rivalry
between the two as to which can get on its spring dress the soonest, and
an old English rhyme says,
"'If the oak's before the ash,
Then you may expect a splash;
But if the ash is 'fore the oak,
Then you must beware a soak.'"
"That must mean," said Malcolm, after considering this rather puzzling
verse, "that it'll rain any way."
"I think it does," replied Miss Harson, with a smile at Malcolm's air of
deep thought, "and it is quite safe to say that in England. But, as 'a
soak' sounds more serious than 'a splash,' it is to be hoped that the
ash will not get ahead of the oak. I do not know what they are doing in
England this year, but here the oak is a day or two ahead. The foliage
of the ash is entirely different, as it has _pinnate_ leaves, which
means leaves arranged in two rows, one on each side of a common stem, or
_petiole_, like--What, Clara?"
"Rose-leaves," was the prompt reply.
"And leaves of the locust trees on the other side of the road," added
[Illustration: THE COMMON ASH.]
"And the sumac," said their governess, "and a number of others that
might be mentioned. This kind of foliage is always graceful, and the
ash is one of our largest and handsomest trees. It is said to be more
common in America than in any other part of the globe. In Europe,
because of its beauty, it is called the painter's tree. It is a
particularly neat and regular-looking tree, and its smooth gray trunk
is higher than that of most trees before any branches appear. Where is
there a tree on the grounds answering this description, Malcolm?"
"Down at the end of the vegetable-garden," was the reply, "and close
beside the laundry."
[Illustration: AMERICAN WHITE ASH.]
"Yes; you are really learning to distinguish trees very well. There are
several species--the white, red, black and mountain ash. The white ash
is a graceful tree, rising in the forest to the height of seventy or
eighty feet, with a straight trunk and a diameter of three feet or more
at the base. On an open plain it throws out its branches, with a gentle
double curvature, to a distance on every side, and forms a broad, round
head of great beauty. The flowers of the ash are greenish white in color
and appear with the leaves in loose clusters. 'The trunk of our largest
American ash is covered with a whitish bark which in very young trees is
nearly smooth; on older trees it is broken by deep furrows into
irregular plates, and on very old stems it becomes smooth again, from
the rough plates scaling off. The branches are grayish green dotted with
gray or white.' Now who can tell _me_ something about this tree?"
"I know that furniture is made of the wood," said Clara, "because that
pretty set in the large spare-room is ash. And it is very
"The wood is used for a great many things," replied Miss Harson, "and
the ash has been called the husbandman's tree because the timber is so
much in demand for farming-implements, and for articles that need to be
both strong and light. It does not last so long as the oak, but it is
more elastic and can better resist sudden shocks and jerks; it is
therefore particularly desirable for the spokes of wheels and ladders
and the beams of floors. Staircases were made of it in olden times, and
they may still be found in some English halls and abbeys. The forest ash
makes better oars than any other wood, and the tree has so many good
qualities that an old English poet spoke of it as
"'The ash for nothing ill.'
"But Malcolm looks as if he had something to say, and I shall be very
happy to hear it."
"It is only about the red berries that they bear in autumn, Miss Harson;
it looks queer to see berries growing on a tree."
"The mountain ash is the only one that has berries," replied his
governess, "and the bloom is in clusters of white flowers. The berries
are sometimes dark red and often of a bright scarlet, and they remain on
the tree during the winter, to the great delight of the birds. We should
find them very sour, although pretty to look at; but the little
feathered wanderers eat them with great relish when the snows of winter
make bird-food scarce and the bright-red berries gleam out most
invitingly. In some parts of Europe the berries are dried and ground
into flour. The rowan, or roan, tree is the English name of the mountain
ash, and in some parts of Great Britain it is called _witchen_, because
of its supposed power against witches and evil spirits and all their
spells. In old times branches of it were hung about houses and stables
and cow-sheds, for it was thought that
"'witches have no power
Where there is roan-tree wood.'"
"But that isn't true, is it?" asked Edith.
"No, dear, not true of either the witches or the wood. But ignorant
people believe a great many foolish things, and the leaves and twigs of
the ash tree were thought to have peculiar virtue. In some places it was
once the practice to pluck an ash-leaf in every case where the leaflets
were of even number, and to say,
"'Even ash, I do thee pluck,
Hoping thus to meet good luck;
If no luck I get from thee,
Better far be on the tree.'"
"It sounds like what children say on finding a four-leafed clover," said
"It is on the same principle," was the reply, "for clover-leaves grow
naturally in threes and ash-leaves in sevens. Both rhymes are equally
silly where luck is concerned, and those who believe God's words--that
even 'the hairs of our head are all numbered'--will have no faith in
'luck.' In old times the ash was believed to perform wonderful cures of
various kinds, and in remote parts of England a little mouse called the
shrew-mouse bore a very bad character. If a horse or cow had pains in
its limbs, they were said to be caused by a shrew-mouse running over it.
Our forefathers provided themselves with what they called a shrew-ash,
in order to meet the case. The shrew-ash was nothing more than an ash
tree in the trunk of which a hole had been bored and a poor little
shrew-mouse put in, with many charms and incantations happily long since
"And couldn't the poor little mouse get out again?" asked Edith.
"I am afraid not, dear; and we can only rejoice that we did not live in
those dark days. Among other beliefs in its virtues, the leaves and
wood of the ash were regarded throughout Northern Europe as a protection
from all manner of snakes, and in harvest-time children were suspended
in their cradles from the branches of tall ash trees while their mothers
were working in the harvest-field below. Even now serpents are said to
dislike the tree so much that they will not come near it, and the leaf
is considered a cure for the bite of a poisonous snake. I have been told
that an ash-leaf rubbed on a mosquito-bite will at once take out the
sting and itching, and no better remedy can be found for the sting of a
bee or a wasp."
"It's ever so much nicer than mud," said Clara, who had rather a talent
for getting into hornets' nests.
"But the mud, you see, is always to be had," replied Miss Harson, "while
ash-leaves do not grow everywhere; and I do not know that they have any
power to cure the sting.
"The other species of ash found in this country are not so important as
the white, but the black ash is remarkable as the slenderest deciduous
tree of its height to be found in the forest. It is often seventy or
eighty feet tall, with a trunk not more than a foot around. The color of
the trunk is a dark granite-gray and the bark is rough. The wood is
remarkable for its toughness, and for making baskets the Indians prefer
it to any other, except the trunk of a young white oak.
"The red ash is very much like the white, but the wood is less valuable.
It is a spreading, broad-headed tree, and the trunk is erect and
branching. It is not so tall as the black ash, yet its trunk is three
times as thick.
"A species of ash grows in Sicily that yields a substance called _manna_
which used to be valuable as a medicine, and this manna is obtained in
the same way as maple-sap--by making holes or incisions in the bark of
the tree. At the proper season the persons whose business it is to
collect manna begin to make incisions, one after the other, up the stem.
The manna flows out like clear water, but it soon congeals and becomes
a solid substance. It has a sweet taste, and while in a liquid state
runs into a leaf of the tree that has been inserted in the wound.
Afterward it flows into a vessel placed below, from which it is carried
away and shipped off to other countries."
"Is there any story about the ash?" asked Malcolm.
"Not much of a story, dear," was the reply--"only a little legend of the
manna trees; but, such as it is, you shall have it:
"The king of Naples, it is said, fenced a number of trees round and
forbade any to collect the store they yielded unless they paid a
tribute. By this means the royal revenue would be largely increased.
But, according to the story, the manna trees, as if they disapproved of
this ungenerous arrangement, refused to yield any manna, and suddenly
became bare and barren. Upon this the king, finding his scheme a
failure, revoked the tax and took away the fence. Then the trees poured
out their manna, as usual, in the greatest abundance; so that it was
said, 'When the king found he could not make a gain of what Providence
had freely bestowed, he gave up the attempt and left the manna as free
as God had given it.'
[Illustration: THE SWING.]
"There, now!" said Miss Harson; "after this long talk, you had better
run off and see if there is not a tree somewhere on the grounds, with
two ropes attached to it, that will bear better fruit than any tree we
have studied yet."
The trio laughed and raced for the swing, which was first reached by
Clara, who seated herself all ready for the push which Malcolm would not
grudge, for he pronounced his sister sweeter than apple or peach; and
so she was.
_THE OLIVE TREE_.
"The ash," said Miss Harson, "has some relations of which, I think, you
will be rather surprised to hear. These relations are both trees and
shrubs, and the lilac, for instance, is one of them."
"Why, they don't look a bit alike," exclaimed Clara.
"No, they certainly do not; for, although this fragrant shrub often
grows as large as a tree, it is quite different from the ash tree. Yet
both belong to the olive family."
"The kind of olives that papa likes to eat at dinner, and that you and I
_don't_ like, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm.
"The very same," replied his governess; "only that we are speaking now
of the tree on which the olives grow. It is well said that the very name
of 'olive' suggests the idea of Palestine and the sunny lands of the
East. The olive tree is one of the most prominent trees of the Bible. It
is mentioned in the very earliest part of the Scriptures, in the book of
Genesis. I wonder if some one can tell me about it?"
"I remember: a dove found a leaf when it was raining and brought it to
Noah in the ark," said little Edith, quickly.
"The rain had stopped falling, dear, after the deluge, and the waters
were receding, or falling, when Noah sent forth the dove a second time
to see what it would find. Here is the verse: 'And the dove came in to
him in the evening; and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off;
so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.' For
this reason the olive-branch is a common emblem of peace. The olive tree
is often mentioned in other parts of the Bible, and was considered one
of the most valuable trees of Palestine, which is described as 'a land
of oil-olive and honey.' It is not nearly so handsome as some other
trees of the Holy Land, nor is it grand-looking or graceful. The
leaves, which are long for the width, and smooth, are dark green on the
upper side and silvery beneath; they generally grow in pairs. The fruit
is shaped like a plum; it is green when first formed, then paler in
color; and when quite ripe, it is black."
 Gen. viii. 9.
"But those that papa eats are olive-color," said Clara.
"Yes," replied Miss Harson, smiling, "but all these hues I have
mentioned are olive-color in some stage of the fruit; and it is in the
green stage, before it is quite ripe, that it is gathered for
"But that isn't _preserves_, is it?" asked Malcolm, drawing up his mouth
at the recollection of an olive he had once tried to eat. "I thought
preserves were always sweet."
"That is the shape in which you are accustomed to them, Malcolm; but to
preserve a thing means to keep it from decay, and salt and vinegar will
do this as well as sugar. Preserves of this kind are what _you_ call
'puckery.'--As to the color, Clara, 'olive-green' is a color by itself,
because of its peculiar tint. It is a gray green instead of a blue or
yellow green, and it has a very dull effect. The fruit is produced only
once in two years, and in bearing-season the tree is loaded with white
blossoms that drop to the ground like flakes of snow. It is said that
not one in a hundred of these numerous flowers becomes an olive. Here,"
continued Miss Harson, pointing to a page of a book in her hand, "is a
representation of an olive-branch with some of the plum-shaped fruit.
The branch, you see, is hard and stiff-looking."
[Illustration: OLIVE-BRANCH WITH FRUIT.]
"I should think the tree would be prettier when all those white flowers
are on it," said little Edith.
"It is--much prettier," replied her governess--"but not so useful. The
fruit of the olive is so valuable that numbers of people depend upon it
for their support. The wood, too, is very hard and durable, and, as it
takes a fine polish, it is used for making many ornamental articles."
"And where does the olive-oil come from?" asked Clara. "Do they make
holes in the tree for it, as they do for maple-sap?"
Malcolm was about to exclaim at this idea, but he remembered just in
time that, should Miss Harson happen to question him, he himself could
not tell where the oil came from.
"The oil is pressed from the olives," was the reply; "a large, vigorous
tree is said to yield a thousand pounds of it. It is such an important
article of commerce in the regions where it is prepared that every one
desires to get as much as he can out of his olive trees, but those who
are too greedy of gain will spoil the quality of the oil to make a
larger quantity. The small olive of Syria is considered the most
delicate, and Italian olives also are very fine; those of Spain are
larger and coarser. The best olive-oil comes from the south-eastern
portion of France and is a clear, pure liquid; it is obtained from the
first pressing of the fruit. This must be only a gentle squeeze, to get
the purest oil: the quality usually sold is made by a heavier pressure;
and then, when the olives are worked over again, come the dregs, which
are not fit for table-use."
"Do they mash 'em, like making apples into cider?" asked Malcolm.
"Something like that; and the olive-farmers take the most anxious care
of their orchards, for they know that the more olives the more oil.
This with the Italians means a living, and one of their proverbs says,
'If you wish to leave a competency to your grandchildren, plant an
olive.' The poorest of the fruit is eaten in their own families, 'to
save it,' and, as it does not taste so well, it will go much farther.
They do not eat olives, though, as we see them eaten--one or two as a
relish; but a respectable dishful is provided for each person, instead
of the bread and potatoes which they do not have."
"I'd rather have the bread and potatoes," said Clara, "and I'm glad that
I don't have to eat a whole plate of olives."
"If you had always been accustomed to having olives, as the Italians
are," replied Miss Harson, "you would think them very nice. I do not
suppose that their children ever think how much more inviting are the
olives that are kept for sale. Olives intended for exportation are
gathered while still green, usually in the month of October. They are
soaked for some hours in the strongest lye, to get rid of their
bitterness, and are afterward allowed to stand for a fortnight in
frequently-changed fresh water, in order to be perfectly purified of the
lye. It only then remains to preserve them in common salt and water,
when they are ready for export."
"That's what they taste of," exclaimed Malcolm--"salt; and I don't like
"I think," said his governess, with a smile, "that I have seen a boy
whom I know enjoying sliced ham and tongue very much indeed."
"So I do, Miss Harson," was the eager reply; "but ham and tongue, you
know, don't taste like olives."
"No, because they are ham and tongue. But they certainly taste salty,
and that is what you object to. It is generally found that sweeping
assertions are not very safe ones. But to come back to our olive tree:
it is an evergreen, and it grows very easily. The readiness with which a
twig will take root reminds us of the willow. A fine grove of olive
trees at Messa, in Morocco, was accidentally planted. It is said that
one of the kings of the dynasty of Saddia, being on a military
expedition, encamped here with his army. The pegs with which the cavalry
picketed their horses were cut from olive trees in the neighborhood,
and, some sudden cause of alarm leading to the abandonment of the
position, the pegs were left in the ground. Making the best of the
situation, the pegs developed into the handsomest group of olive trees
in the district."
The children wondered if any trees had ever been planted in such a
strange way before, and little Edith said thoughtfully,
"But, Miss Harson, why don't good people go around and plant trees
wherever there aren't any? It would be so nice!"
"Some good people do plant trees, dear, wherever they can," replied her
governess, "thinking, as they say, of those who are to come after them;
a great many roadside trees have grown in this way. But no one is
allowed to meddle with other people's property; waste-places might
easily be beautified with trees if the owners cared for anything but for
their own present interests. But here is something you will like to
hear about the olives of Palestine: 'They are all planted together in
the grove like the trees in a forest, and it would seem scarcely
possible for the owners to distinguish their own property. But when the
fruit is getting ripe, watchmen are appointed to guard the grove and
prevent a single olive from being touched even by the person who has a
right to the tree.'--You do not look as if you would like
[Illustration: OLIVE TREE.--GATHERING THE FRUIT.]
"Indeed I wouldn't!" replied the boy. "I rather think I'd take my own
olives whenever I wanted 'em."
"Not if you lived where all were agreed on this point, as they seem to
be in Palestine.--'Days pass on, and the autumn is at hand before the
governor of the district issues the wished-for proclamation; then the
watchmen are removed. Immediately the scene becomes a most animated one.
The grove is alive with an eager throng of men, women and children
shaking down the precious fruit. It is, however, scarcely possible to
bring every berry down, nor would it seem desirable, since after this
great harvest comes the gleaning-time, when the poor, who have no olive
trees, are permitted to come into the grove and shake down what
"Isn't there something about that in the Bible, Miss Harson?" asked
"Yes; it is in the book of the prophet Isaiah, 'Yet gleaning grapes
shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three
berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost
fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord God of Israel.' This is a
prophecy about God's people, but the Jews were told by God to leave
something, when they were harvesting, for the poor to glean. Does it not
seem wonderful that the mighty Ruler of the universe should condescend
to such small things? But nothing is small with him, and we see that his
loving care extends to the poorest and the meanest."
 Isa. xvii. 6.
"Miss Harson," asked Edith, with great earnestness, "has each of our
hairs got a number on it? I couldn't find any."
The young lady could scarcely keep from smiling, but she was obliged to
call Malcolm to order, and even Clara seemed amused at her little
sister's queer interpretation of the loving words, "The very hairs of
your head are all numbered."
Miss Harson took her youngest pupil on her knee and explained to her the
meaning of our Saviour's words in Luke xii. 7, where it is added, "Fear
not,", because the heavenly Father's loving care is always around us.
"It was a natural mistake," she continued, "for a very little girl to
make; but we must not try to find amusement in mistakes about God's
word. Many grown people are irreverent in this way without knowing it:
perhaps they were not properly taught when they were children. But _my_
children must not have this excuse, and I want them all to promise me
that they will never utter nor listen to words from the Bible in any
other but a reverent manner."
All promised, Malcolm with a flushed face and subdued tone; and Edith
felt that one of the great puzzles of her small existence had
"Oil is the most important product of the olive tree," said Miss Harson,
"and it has well been called its richness and fatness. The great demand
for it in Europe and Asia prevents the best quality from being sent
abroad, and it is said that even the most wealthy foreigners seldom get
it pure. It is a most important article of food, taking the place held
by butter and lard with us. Innumerable lamps, too, are kept burning by
means of this oil, and so varied are its uses in the East that it was a
greater thing than we can understand for the prophet Habakkuk to say,
'Although the labor of the olive shall fail, ... yet will I rejoice in
the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.' Job says, 'The rock
poured me out rivers of oil;' this means the oil of the olive, which
will thrive on the sides and tops of rocky hills where there is scarcely
any earth. It is a very long-lived tree, as well as an evergreen; the
Psalmist says, 'I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.'"
 Job xxiii. 6.
"What does a _wild_ olive tree mean, Miss Harson?" asked Clara.
"It means, dear, one that has grown without being cultivated, like our
wild cherry and plum trees. The wild olive is smaller than the other,
and inferior to it in every way. There are a great many olive trees in
Palestine, and a place where they must have been very plentiful is
called by a name which we often see in the Bible.--What is it, Malcolm?"
"Is it 'the Mount of Olives'?" said Malcolm.
"Yes, and it is sometimes called 'Olivet.' It is mentioned in the Old
Testament as well as in the New. In Second Samuel it is written: 'And
David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and
had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was
with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they
 2 Sam. xv. 30.
"What was the matter?" asked Edith.
"King David's wicked son Absalom had risen up against his father because
he wished to be king in his stead. You remember how he was caught by the
head in the boughs of an oak during the very battle that he was fighting
for this purpose; so we know that he did not succeed in his wicked plan,
but lost his life instead.--The Mount of Olives is described as 'a
ridge running north and south on the east side of Jerusalem, its summit
about half a mile from the city wall and separated from it by the valley
of the Kidron. It is composed of a chalky limestone, the rocks
everywhere showing themselves. The olive trees that formerly covered it
and gave it its name are now represented by a few trees and clumps of
trees. There are three prominent summits on the ridge; of these, the
southernmost, which is lower than the other two, is now known as 'the
Mount of Offence,' originally 'the Mount of Corruption,' because Solomon
defiled it with idolatrous worship. Over this ridge passes the road to
Bethany, the most frequented route to Jericho and the Jordan. The side
of the Mount of Olives toward the west contains many tombs cut in the
rock. The central summit rises two hundred feet above Jerusalem and
presents a fine view of the city, and, indeed, of the whole region,
including the mountains of Ephraim on the north, the valley of the
Jordan on the east, a part of the Dead Sea on the south-east, and beyond
it Kerak, in the mountains of Moab. Perhaps no spot on earth unites so
fine a view with so many memorials of the most solemn and important
events. Over this hill the Saviour often climbed in his journeys to and
from the Holy City. Gethsemane lay at its foot on the west, and Bethany
on its eastern slope.'"
During the reading of this description of the Mount of Olives, Miss
Harson showed the children pictures of the different spots mentioned,
and thus they were not likely soon to forget what had been told them.
"Who can repeat some words from the New Testament about this mountain?"
asked Miss Harson.
"'Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives,'" said Clara, who had learned
this verse in her Sunday lesson, "and it is the first verse of the
eighth chapter of St. John."
"And the verse just before it, at the end of the seventh chapter,"
replied her governess, "says that 'every man went unto his own house,'
but 'Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.' In another place it is said
that 'at night he went out and abode in the Mount of Olives,' and in
still another that he 'continued all night in prayer to God,' probably
on the same mountain."
"And can people really go and see the very same Mount of Olives now?"
asked Malcolm, eagerly.
"The very same," was the reply, "except, as I just read to you, many of
the olive trees that gave it its name are no longer there. The Garden of
Gethsemane, too, the most sacred spot near the mountain, is much
changed, and a traveler who saw it lately says:
"'At the foot of the Mount of Olives is a garden enclosed by a wall.
There are paths and there are plots of flowers, the work of loving hands
in recent years. The flowers speak of to-day, but there are olive trees
in the garden that testify of the history of far-away years. Their
venerable trunks, gnarled and rugged, are like the rough, marred binding
of old books, shutting in a history going back to a far-off date.
"'On one side of this garden slope upward the terraces of the Mount of
Olives--terraces that are cultivated to-day even as the slopes of Olivet
have been cultivated for generations and centuries. The other side of
the garden looks toward the eastern wall of Jerusalem. Deep down in its
shadowy bed, between the wall and the garden, lies the ravine of