Part 3 out of 4
"Shall we have some figs now, by way of variety?" was a question that
caused three pairs of eyes to turn rather expectantly on the speaker;
for figs were very popular with the small people of Elmridge.
[Illustration: THE BANYAN TREE.]
"Not in the way of refreshments, just at present," continued their
governess, "but only as belonging to the mulberry family; and we will
begin with that curious tree the banyan, or Indian fig. This stately and
beautiful tree is found on the banks of the river Ganges and in many
parts of India, and is a tree much valued and venerated by the Hindu. He
plants it near the temple of his idol; and if the village in which he
resides does not possess any such edifice, he uses the banyan for a
temple and places the idol beneath it. Here, every morning and evening,
he performs the rites of his heathen worship. And, more than this, he
considers the tree, with its out-stretched and far-sheltering arms, an
emblem of the creator of all things."
"Is that only one tree?" asked Malcolm as Miss Harson displayed a
picture that was more like a small grove. "Why, it looks like two or
three trees together."
"Does it grow up from the ground or down from the air?" asked Clara.
"Just look at these queer branches with one end fast to the tree and the
other end fast to the ground!"
Edith thought that the branches which had not reached the ground looked
like snakes, but, for all that, it was certainly a grand tree.
"The peculiar growth of the banyan," continued Miss Harson, "renders it
an object of beauty and produces those column-like stems that cause it
to become a grove in itself. It may be said to grow, not from the seed,
but from the branches. They spread out horizontally, and each branch
sends out a number of rootlets that at first hang from it like slender
cords and wave about in the wind.--Those are your 'snakes,' Edith.--But
by degrees they reach the ground and root themselves into it; then the
cord tightens and thickens and becomes a stem, acting like a prop to the
widespreading branch of the parent plant. Indeed, column on column is
added in this manner, the books tell us, so long as the mother-tree can
support its numerous progeny."
"How very strange!" said Clara. "The mulberry seems to have some very
"Such a great tree ought to bear very large figs," added Malcolm.
"On the contrary," replied his governess, "it bears uncommonly small
ones--no larger than a hazel-nut, and of a red color. They are not
considered eatable by the natives, but birds and animals feed upon them,
and in the leafy bower of the banyan are found the peacock, the monkey
and the squirrel. Here, too, are a myriad of pigeons as green as the
leaf and with eyes and feet of a brilliant red. They are so like the
foliage in color that they can be seen only by the practiced eye of the
hunter, and even he would fail to detect them were it not for their
restless movements. As they flutter about from branch to branch they are
apt to fall victims to his skill in shooting his arrows."
"If they would only keep still!" exclaimed Edith, who felt a strong
sympathy for the green pigeons. "Poor pretty things! Why don't they,
Miss Harson, instead of getting killed?"
"They do not know their danger until it is too late, and it is quite as
hard for them to keep still as it is for little girls."
Edith wondered if that meant her; she was a little girl, but she did not
think she was so very restless. However, Miss Harson didn't tell her,
and she soon forgot it in listening to what was said of the queer tree
with branches like snakes.
"The leaves of the banyan tree are large and soft and of a very bright
green, and the deep shade and pillared walks are so welcome to the Hindu
that he even tries to improve on Nature and coax the shoots to grow just
where he wishes them. He binds wet clay and moss on the branch to make
the rootlet sprout."
"Will it grow then?" asked Malcolm.
"Yes, just as a cutting planted in the earth will grow, although it
seems a very odd style of gardening.--The sacred fig tree of
India--_Ficus religiosa_--is a near relative of the banyan, and very
much like it in general appearance; but the leaves are on such slender
stalks that they tremble like those of the aspen. It is known as the bo
tree of Ceylon, and is said to have been placed in charge of the priests
long before the present race of inhabitants had appeared in the island."
"Where do the real figs grow?" asked Clara.
"In a great many moderately warm or sub-tropical countries," was the
reply, "but Smyrna figs are the most celebrated. Immense quantities of
the fruit are dried and packed in Asiatic Turkey for exportation from
this city, and it is said that in the fig season nothing else is talked
"I didn't know that they were dried," said Malcolm, in great surprise;
"I thought they were just packed tight in boxes and then sent off."
[Illustration: LEAF AND FRUIT OF THE FIG TREE.]
"'In its native country,'" read Miss Harson, "'and when growing on the
tree, the fig presents a different appearance from the dried and packed
specimens we see in this country. It is a firm and fleshy fruit, and
has a delicious honey-drop hanging from the point.' And here," she
added, "is a small branch from the fig tree, with fruit growing on it."
"Why, it's shaped like a pear!" exclaimed Malcolm.
"And what large, pretty leaves it has!" said Clara.
"'The fig tree is common in Palestine and the East,'" Miss Harson
continued to read, "'and flourishes with the greatest luxuriance in
those barren and stony situations, where little else will grow. Its
large size and its abundance of five-lobed leaves render it a pleasant
shade-tree, and its fruit furnishes a wholesome food very much used in
all the lands of the Bible.' Figs were among the fruits mentioned in the
'land that flowed with milk and honey,' and it was a symbol of peace and
plenty, as you will find, Malcolm, by reading to us from First Kings,
fourth chapter, twenty-fifth verse."
"'And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under
his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of
Solomon.'--That's what it means, then!" said Malcolm, when he had
finished reading the verse. "I've heard people say, 'Under your own vine
and fig tree,' and I couldn't tell what they meant."
"Yes," replied his governess, "some persons make very free with the
words of Holy Scripture and twist them to suit meanings for which they
were not intended. Having a house of one's own is usually meant by this
quotation, and almost the same words are repeated in other parts of the
Old Testament. The fig is often mentioned in the Bible, and two kinds
are spoken of--the very early fig, and the one that ripens late in the
summer. The early fig was considered the best; and I think that Clara
will tell us what is said of it by the prophet Jeremiah."
Clara read slowly:
"'One basket had very good figs, _even like the figs that are first
ripe_; and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be
eaten, they were so bad.'"
 Jer. xxiv. 2.
"But can figs be naughty, Miss Harson?" asked Edith, with very
wide-open eyes. "I thought that only children were naughty,"
"There are 'naughty' grown people as well as naughty children," was the
reply, "and inanimate things like figs in old times were called naughty
too, in the sense of being bad.--The fruit of the fig tree appears not
only before the leaves, but without any sign of blossoms, the flowers
being small and hidden in the little buttons which first shoot out from
the points of the sterns, and around which the outer and firm part of
the fig grows. The leaves come out so late in the season that our
Saviour said, 'Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is
yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.'
Did not our Lord say something else about a fig tree?"
 Matt. xxiv. 32.
"Yes," replied Clara; "the one that was withered away because it had no
figs on it."
"The barren fig tree which was withered at our Saviour's word, as an
awful warning to unfruitful professors of religion, seems to have spent
itself in leaves. It stood by the wayside, free to all, and, as the time
for stripping the trees of their fruit had not come--for in Mark we are
told that 'the time of figs was not yet'--it was reasonable to
expect to find it covered with figs in various stages of growth. Yet
there was 'nothing thereon, but leaves only.' Find the nineteenth verse
of the twenty-first chapter of Matthew, Malcolm, and read what is
 Mark xi. 13.
"'And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found
nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on
thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.'"
"A fig tree having leaves," said Miss Harson, "should also have figs,
for these, as I have already told you, appear before the leaves, and
both are on the tree at the same time; so that, although unripe figs are
seen without leaves, leaves should not be seen without figs; and if it
was not yet the season for figs, it was not the season for leaves
either. The barren fig tree has often been compared to people who make a
show of goodness in words, but leave the doing of good works to others;
and when anything is expected of them, there is sure to be
disappointment. 'Nothing but leaves' has become a proverb; and when it
can be used to express the barren condition of those who profess to
follow the teachings of our Lord, it is sad indeed."
"Do fig trees grow wild?" asked Clara, presently.
"Yes," was the reply, "and very curious-looking things they are. 'Their
roots twist into all kinds of whimsical contortions, so as to look more
like a mass of snakes than the roots of a tree. They unite themselves so
closely to the substances that come in their way, such as the face of
rocks, or even the stems of other trees, that nothing can pull them
away. And in some parts of India these strong, tough roots are made to
serve the purpose of bridges and twisted over some stream or cataract.
The wild fig is often a dangerous parasite, and does not attain
perfection without completing some work of destruction among its
neighbors in the forest. A slender rootlet may sometimes be seen hanging
from the crown of a palm. The seed was carried there by some bird that
had fed upon the fruit of a wild fig, and it rooted itself with
surprising facility. The rootlet, as it descends, envelops the
column-like stem of the palm with a woody network, and at length reaches
the ground. Meanwhile, the true stem of the parasite shoots upward from
the crown of the palm. It sends out numberless rootlets, each of which,
as soon as it reaches the ground, takes root; and between them the palm
is stifled and perishes, leaving the fig in undisturbed possession. The
parasite does not, however, long survive the decline; for, no longer fed
by the juices of the palm, it also, in process of time, begins to
languish and decline.'"
"What a mean thing it is!" exclaimed Malcolm--"as mean as the cuckoo,
that lays its eggs in other birds' nests. And I'm glad it dies when it
has killed the palm tree; it just serves it right. But don't figs ever
grow in this country, Miss Harson?"
"Yes," replied his governess; "they are cultivated in the Southern
States and in California, like many other semi-tropical fruits, and are
principally eaten fresh, but for drying they are not equal to the
imported ones. No doubt the cultivation of figs in California will
become a prosperous trade, for the climate and circumstances there are
much like those of Syria."
[Illustration: DWARF FIG TREE IN A POT.]
_QUEER RELATIONS: THE CAOUTCHOUC AND THE MILK TREE_.
"What dark, strange-looking trees!" exclaimed the children while looking
at an illustration of caoutchouc trees in Brazil. "How thick and strong
they are! And what funny tops!--like pointed umbrellas."
"The India-rubber tree is not likely to be mistaken for any other," said
their governess, "and it does not look very dark and gloomy in that
forest, where everything seems to be crowded close and in a tangle,
because South American vegetation grows so thickly and rapidly. This is
the country which supplies the largest quantity of India-rubber. Immense
cargoes are shipped from the town of Para, on the river Amazon, and
obtained from the _Siphonia elastica_."
"Are the stems all made of India-rubber?" asked Edith, who thought that
was exactly what they looked like.
"Are the stems of the maple trees made of maple-sugar?" replied Miss
Harson. "The India-rubber is got from its tree as the sugar is from the
maple tree. It is taken from the trunk in the shape of a very thick
milky fluid, and it is said that no other vital fluid, whether in animal
or in plant, contains so much solid material within it; and it is a
matter of surprise that the sap, thus encumbered, can circulate through
all the delicate vessels of the tree. Tropical heat is required to form
the caoutchouc; for when the tree is cultivated in hothouses, the
substance of the sap is quite different. The full-grown trees are very
handsome, with round column-like trunks about sixty feet high, and the
crown of foliage is said to resemble that of the ash."
"Did people always know about India-rubber?" asked Clara.
"No indeed! It is not more than a hundred and fifty years--perhaps not
so long--since it was a great curiosity; so that a piece half an inch
square would sell in London for nearly a dollar of our money, but now it
comes in shiploads, and a pound of it costs less than quarter of that
sum. It is used for so many purposes that it seems as if the world could
never have gone on without it. All sorts of outside garments to keep out
the rain are made of it. Waterproof cloaks are called macintoshes in
England because this was the name of the person who invented them.
India-rubber is also used for tents and many other things, and, as water
cannot get through it, there is a great saving of trouble and expense."
"It must be splendid for tents," said Malcolm; "no one need care, when
snug under cover, whether or not it rained in the woods."
"People do care, though," was the reply, "for they expect, when in the
woods, to live out of doors; but the India-rubber is certainly a great
improvement on tents that get soaked through."
"I like it," said Edith, "because it rubs things out. When I draw a
house and it's all wrong, my piece of India-rubber will take it away,
and then I can make another one on the paper."
"That is the very smallest of its uses," replied Miss Harson, smiling at
the little girl's earnestness, "and yet we find it a great convenience.
An English writer, speaking of it when it was first known in England,
said that he had seen a substance that would efface from paper the marks
of a black-lead pencil, and he thought it must be of use to those who
"How funny that sounds!" exclaimed Malcolm. "Why, I couldn't get along
without my India-rubber when I make mistakes,"
"You might," said his governess, "if you had some stale bread to rub
with; for people _have_ gotten along without a great many things which
they now think necessary."
"Miss Harson," said Clara, "won't you tell us, please, how they get the
caoutch--whatever it is--and make it into India-rubber?"
"I will," was the laughing reply, "when you can say the word properly.
As Clara said, Miss Harson made things so easy to understand! and in a
very short time the hard word was mastered.
"As I have never seen the sap gathered," continued the young lady, "I
shall have to read you an account of it, instead of telling you from my
own experience; but the description is so plain that I think we shall
all be able to understand it very well: 'At certain seasons of the year
the natives visit some islands in the river Amazon that for many months
are covered with water. As soon as the water subsides and a footing can
be obtained the Indians arrive in parties, to seek for the trees. The
Indian who comes every morning to collect the juice from the trunk has a
number of trees allotted to him, and goes the round of the whole. The
previous night he has made a long, deep cut in the bark of each and hung
an earthen vessel beneath, to receive the thick, creamlike substance
that trickles down. The vessel is filled by morning, and he pours the
contents into one much larger and carries it to his hut. He is provided
with a number of moulds of different shapes and sizes, and he dips them
into the juice and puts them aside to dry. They are then dipped again,
and the process is continued until the coat of India-rubber on the mould
is of sufficient thickness. It is made black by passing it through the
smoke of burning palm-nuts. The moulds are broken and taken out, leaving
the India-rubber ready for sale, and pretty much as we used to see it in
the shops before the people of this country had learned how to
"That seems easy enough," said Malcolm, "but how do they make it into
"Gutta-percha is not made," replied his governess, "and it is taken from
an entirely different tree, the _Icosandra gutta_, which grows in
Southern Asia. The milky fluid is procured in the same way, but it is
placed in vessels to evaporate, and the solid substance left at the
bottom is the gutta-percha. It is not elastic, like India-rubber, and
is called 'vegetable leather' because of its toughness and leathery
appearance. It was discovered by an English traveler a long time before
it was supposed to have any useful properties, but now it is considered
a very valuable material. The wonderful submarine telegraph could not
convey its messages between the Old World and the New were not its wires
protected from injury by a coating of gutta-percha. Its unyielding
nature and its not being elastic render it the very material needed. The
long straps used in working machines are also made of gutta-percha, and
this is another instance where its non-elasticity gives it the
preference over India-rubber."
"And what is vulcanite?" asked Clara.
"It is caoutchouc mixed with sulphur. Unless a small quantity of
brimstone is added in the manufacture of overshoes, they become soft
when exposed to heat and hardened when exposed to cold; but it was
discovered that the sulphur will keep them from being affected by
changes in temperature. When a large amount of sulphur is used, the
India-rubber, becomes as hard as horn or wood, and this is the substance
called vulcanite. Now the gum is imported in masses, to be wrought over
by our skillful mechanics."
The children were very much pleased to find that they had learned the
nature of three important articles--India-rubber, gutta-percha and
vulcanite--and they thought it would be quite easy to remember the
differences between them.
"And now," said Miss Harson, "the last of these useful trees--the cow
tree, or milk tree--is the most curious one of all. Like the caoutchouc,
it is a native of South America; but the sap is a rich fluid that
answers for food, like milk. It is a fine-looking tree with oblong,
pointed leaves about ten inches in length and a fleshy fruit containing
one or two nuts. The sap is the most valuable part; and when incisions
are made in the trunk of the tree, there is an abundant flow of thick
milk-like sap, which is described as having an agreeable and balmv
smell. The German traveler Humboldt drank it from the shell of a
calabash, and the natives dip their bread of maize or cassava in it.
This milk is said to be very fattening; and when exposed to the air, it
thickens into a substance which the people call cheese."
"Milk and cheese from a tree!" exclaimed Malcolm. "Do you think we'd
like them as well as ours, Miss Harson?"
"No," was the reply, "I do not think we should; but if we had never
known any other kind, it would be quite a different matter, and the
traveler says that both smell and taste are agreeable. The sap, it
seems, is like curdled milk, and the natives say that they can tell,
from the thickness and color of the foliage, the trunks that yield the
most juice. This wonderful tree will be found growing on the side of a
barren rock, and its large, woody roots can scarcely penetrate into the
stone. For several months of the year not a single shower moistens its
foliage. Its branches then appear dead and dried; but when the trunk is
pierced, there flows from it a sweet and nourishing milk. It is at the
rising of the sun that this vegetable fountain is most abundant. The
negroes and natives are then seen hastening from all quarters, furnished
with large bowls to receive the milk, which grows yellow and thickens at
its surface. Some empty their bowls while under the tree itself; others
carry the juice home to their children."
"Isn't it funny," said Edith, laughing, "to go and get their breakfasts
from a _tree_? I wish we had some milk trees here."
"But you would not find it pleasant," replied their governess, "to have
some other things that are always found where the milk tree grows. The
intense heat and the swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies, the serpents
and jaguars and other disagreeable and dangerous creatures, make life in
that region anything but pleasant, and the curious vegetation and
delicious fruits are not worth the suffering inflicted by all these
On hearing of these drawbacks the children soon decided that their own
dear home was the best, and no longer envied the possessors even of
the cow tree.
_HOME AND ABROAD: LINDEN, CAMPHOR, BEECH_.
"Now," said Miss Harson to her expectant flock, "it is to be hoped that
our foreign wanderings among such wonderful trees have not spoiled you
for home trees, as there are still a number of them which we have not
"No indeed!" they assured her; "they liked to hear about them all, and
they were going to try and remember everything she told them about
Their governess said that would be too much to expect, and if they
remembered the most important things she would be quite satisfied,
"We will take the linden, lime, or basswood, tree--for it has all three
of these names--this evening," she continued, "and there are nine or ten
species of the tree, which are found in America, Europe and Western
Asia. It is a very handsome, regular-looking tree with rich, thick
masses of foliage that make a deep shade. The leaves are heart-shaped
and very finely veined, have sharply-serrated edges and are four or five
inches long. The leaf-stalk is half the length of the leaf. It blooms
in July and August, and the flowers are yellowish white and very
fragrant; when an avenue of limes is in blossom, the whole atmosphere is
filled with a delightful perfume which can hardly be described."
[Illustration: THE LINDEN OR LIME TREE (_Tilia_).]
"There are no lime trees here, are there?" asked Clara.
"No," was the reply, "I do not think there are any in this neighborhood;
but they grow abundantly not many miles away. Our native trees are not
so pretty as the English lime, which, clothed with softer foliage, has a
smaller leaf and a neater and more elegant spray. Ours bears larger and
more conspicuous flowers, in heavier clusters, but of inferior
sweetness. Both species are remarkable for their size and longevity. The
young leaves of the lime are of a bright fresh tint that contrasts
strongly with the very dark color of the branches; and these branches
are so finely divided that their beauty is seen to the greatest
advantage when winter has stripped them bare of leaves.
"'The linden has in all ages been celebrated for the fragrance of its
flowers and the excellence of the honey made from them. The famous
Mount Hybla was covered with lime trees. The aroma from its flowers is
like that of mignonette; it perfumes the whole atmosphere, and is
perceptible to the inhabitants of all the beehives within a circuit of a
mile. The real linden honey is of a greenish color and delicious taste
when taken from the hive immediately after the trees have been in
blossom, and is often sold for more than the ordinary kind. There is a
forest in Lithuania that abounds in lime trees, and here swarms of wild
bees live in the hollow trunks and collect their honey from the lime.'"
[Illustration: LEAF AND FLOWER OF LIME TREE _(Tilia)._]
"What fun it would be, if we were there, to go and get it!" exclaimed
Malcolm. "But don't bees make honey from the lime trees that grow in
this country, too, Miss Harson?"
"Certainly they do; and the beekeepers look anxiously forward to the
blossoming of the trees, because they provide such abundant supplies for
the busy swarms. The flowers have other uses, too, besides the making of
honey: the Swiss are said to obtain a favorite beverage from them, and
in the South of France an infusion of the blossoms is taken for colds
and hoarseness, and also for fever. 'Active boys climb to the topmost
branches and gather the fragrant flowers, which their mothers catch in
their aprons for that purpose. An avenue of limes has been ravaged and
torn in pieces by the eagerness of the people to gather the blossoms,
and they are often made into tea which is a soft sugary beverage in
taste a little like licorice.'"
"How queer," said Clara, "to make tea from flowers!"
"Is it any queerer," asked her governess, "than to make it from leaves?
I should think that the flowers might even be better, and yet I should
scarcely like lime-tea that tastes like licorice."
The children, though, seemed to think that they would like it, and Miss
Harson had very little doubt that such would be the case.
"Both the bark and the wood of the lime tree are valuable," she
continued. "The fibres of the bark are strong and firm, and make
excellent ropes and cordage. In Sweden and Russia they are made into a
kind of matting that is very useful for packing-purposes and in
protecting delicate plants from the frost. 'The manufacture of this
useful material is carried on in the summer, close by the woods and
forests where the lime trees grow in abundance. As soon as the sap
begins to ascend freely the bark parts from the wood and can be taken
away with ease. Great strips are then peeled off and steeped in water
until they separate into layers; the layers are still further divided
into smaller strips or ribbons, and are hung up in the shade of the
wood, generally on the very tree itself from which they have been taken.
After a time they are woven into the matting and sent to market for
sale. The Swedish fishermen also manufacture it into a coarse thread for
fishing-nets, and from the fibres of the young shoots the Russian
peasant makes the strong shoes he wears, using the outer bark for the
soles. In Italy the garments of the poorer people are often made of
cloth woven from this material."
"Why, people can fairly _live_ on trees," said Malcolm. "I didn't know
that they were good for anything but shade--except the trees that have
fruit and nuts on 'em."
"There is a great deal for us all to learn of the works of the Creator,"
replied Miss Harson, "and the blessing of trees is not half known. The
wood of the lime is said never to be worm-eaten; it is very soft and
smooth and of a pale-yellow color. It is used for the famous Tunbridge
ware, and is called the carver's tree, because, as the poet says,
"'Smooth linden best obeys
The carver's chisel--best his curious work
Displays in nicest touches.'
"The fruits and flowers carved for the choir of St. Paul's cathedral in
London are done in lime-wood.
"So numerous are the purposes to which the bark, wood, leaves and
blossoms of the lime, or linden, tree can be applied that centuries ago
it was called the tree of a thousand uses. Linden is the name by which
it is always known on the continent of Europe, and there it is indeed a
magnificent tree, forming the most delightful avenues and branching
colonnades. One of the principal streets in Berlin is called 'Unter den
Linden.' In the Middle Ages, when the Swiss and the Flemings were always
struggling for liberty, it was their custom to plant a lime tree on the
field of battle, and many of these old trees still remain and have been
the subject of ballads and poetical effusions:
"'The stately lime, smooth, gentle, straight and fair.'"
"Is there any story about it, Miss Harson?"
"No," was the reply, "not much of a story; only descriptions of some
very large and very ancient trees. One of these, the old linden tree of
Soleure, in Switzerland, was spoken of by an English traveler two
hundred years ago as 'right noble and wondrous to behold. A bower
composed of its branches is capable of holding three hundred persons
sitting at ease; it has also a fountain set about with many tables
formed solely of the boughs, to which men ascend by steps; and all is
kept so accurately and thick that the sun never looks into it.'"
"It is just like a tent," said Malcolm, "it must be pleasant to sit by
the fountain. Wouldn't you like it, Miss Harson?"
"I am sure I should," replied his governess; "and I should also like to
see the famous lime tree of Zurich, the boughs of which will shelter
five hundred persons. At Augsburg, in Germany, feasts and weddings have
often been celebrated under the shade of some venerable limes that
branch out to an immense distance. In early times divine honors were
paid to them as emblems of immortality. And now," said Miss Harson, "the
last of these famous trees is a noble lime tree which grew on the farm
belonging to the ancestors of Linnaeus, the great naturalist, beneath
the shade of which he played in childhood, and from which his ancestors
derived their surname. That noble tree still blossoms from year to year,
beautiful in every change of seasons."
"Lime, linden and basswood," said Clara--"three names to remember for
one tree. But didn't you say, Miss Harson, that it's always called
basswood in our country?"
"Often, but not always. The name linden is quite common with us, and it
will be well for you to remember that it is also called lime, so that
when you go to Europe you will know what is meant by _lime_ and
The children laughed at this idea, for it seemed very funny to think of
a little girl like Clara going to Europe, but, as their governess told
them, little girls did go constantly; besides, this was the time to
learn what would be of use to them when they were grown.
"The fragrant lime," said Miss Harson, "has a relative in Asia whose
acquaintance I wish you to make, and you know it already in one of its
products, which is common in every household. It is also very
fragrant--or rather, I should say, it has a strong aromatic odor which
is very reviving in cases of faintness or illness, although it has quite
a contrary effect on insects, particularly on mosquitoes. I should like
to have some one tell me what this white, powerful substance is."
This was quite a conundrum, and for a little while the children were
extremely puzzled over its solution; but presently Clara asked,
"Do the moths hate it too, Miss Harson? And isn't it camphor?"
"Camphor doesn't grow on a _tree_," said Malcolm, in a superior tone;
"it is dug out of the earth."
"I have never read of any camphor-mines," replied his governess,
laughing, "and I think you will find that camphor--which is just what I
meant--is obtained from the trunk of a tree."
"Like India-rubber?" asked Edith.
"No, dear, not like India-rubber, for it grows in even a more curious
way than that, masses of it being found in the trunk of the camphor
tree--not in the form of sap, but in lumps, as we use it."
"I thought it was like water," said Edith, in a puzzled tone.
"So it is when dissolved in alcohol, as we generally have it; but it is
also used in lumps to drive away moths and for various other purposes.
But I will tell you all about the tree, which grows in the islands of
Sumatra and Borneo and bears the botanical name _Dryobalanops camphora_.
The camphor is also called _barus_ camphor, to distinguish it from the
_laurus_, of which I will tell you afterward, and it is of a better
quality and more easily obtained. The tree grows in the forests of
these East Indian islands and is remarkable for its majestic size, dense
foliage and magnolia-like flowers. The trunk rises as high as ninety
feet without a single branch, and within it are cavities, sometimes a
foot and a half long, which cannot be perceived until the bark is split
open. These cavities contain the camphor in clear crystalline masses,
and with it an oil known as camphor oil, that is thought by some to be
camphor in an immature form. But the oil, even when crystallized by
artificial means, does not produce such good camphor as that already
solidified in the tree."
"To think," exclaimed Clara, "of camphor growing in that way! But how do
they get it out, Miss Harson? Do they cut great holes in the trunk of
"No, dear; I have just read to you that the camphor cannot be seen until
the bark is split open, and the grand trees have to be cut down. But to
do this is no easy matter. The hard, close-grained timber requires days
of hewing and sawing to get it severed. The masses of roots are as
unyielding as iron, and run twisting through the soil to the distance
of sixty yards. Even at their farthest extremity they are as thick as a
"I shouldn't think the camphor was worth all that trouble," said
Malcolm; "it don't seem to amount to much, any wary."
"It is more valuable than you suppose," replied Miss Harson; "for,
besides preserving furs and woolen fabrics from the devouring moth, it
protects the contents of cabinets and museums from the attacks of the
minute creatures that prey upon the dried specimens of the naturalist.
Not any of the insect tribe can endure the powerful scent of the
camphor, and they either retreat before it or are killed by it. But its
principal value is in medicine. It is used both internally and
externally. It acts as a nervous stimulant, and is a favorite domestic
remedy.--So you see, Malcolm, that camphor really amounts to a great
deal, and we could not very well do without it."
"How can people tell when there is any camphor inside the tree?" asked
"They cannot tell," was the reply, "until the trunk is split open,
although a tribe of men in Sumatra say that they know before-hand, by a
kind of magic, which is the right tree to cut down. But the beautiful,
stately tree is often wasted in vain, and after all their hard work the
camphor-seekers find the cavities of the split-up trunk filled with a
thick black substance like pitch instead of the pure white camphor."
"Poor things!" said Edith, pityingly; "that's too bad."
"Camphor is found in many trees and shrubs," continued her governess,
"but in all others except the camphor tree of Sumatra and Borneo it has
to be distilled from the wood and roots. The camphor-laurel, which is
about the size of an English oak, is the most important of these trees.
It grows abundantly in the Chinese island of Formosa, and 'camphor
mandarin' is the title of a rich Chinaman who pays the government for
the privilege of extracting all the camphor, which he sends to other
countries at a large profit. Every part of this tree is full of camphor,
and the tree gives out, when bruised, a strong perfume.
"The European bay tree, which is more like an immense shrub, is also a
member of this singular tribe, and its leaves have the strong family
flavor. They were used in medicine, as well as the berries, before the
camphor-laurel became known in Europe; in the time of Queen Elizabeth
the floors of the better sort of houses were strewed with bay-leaves
instead of being carpeted as now. The bay was an emblem of victory in
old Roman times, and victorious generals were crowned with it. A wreath
of this laurel, with the berries on, was placed on the head of a
favorite poet in the Middle Ages, and in this way came the title
'poet-laureate'--_laureatus_,' crowned with laurel.'
"Do you remember," continued Miss Harson, "the tall, straight tree that
I showed you yesterday when we were out in the woods--the one with a
fluted trunk? What was its name?"
"I know!" said Malcolm, quite excited. "Think of the seashore! Beach!
That's what I told myself to remember."
[Illustration: AMERICAN BEECH.]
"A very good idea," replied his governess, laughing; "only you must not
spell it with an _a_, like the seashore, for it is _b-e-e-c-h._--The
fluted, or ribbed, shaft of this grand-looking tree is often sixty or
seventy feet high, and, although it is found in its greatest perfection
in England, it is a common tree in most of the woods in this country.
For depth of shade no tree is equal to the beech, and its long beautiful
leaves, with their close ridges and serrated edges, are very much like
those of the chestnut. The leaves are of a light, fresh green and very
neat and perfect, because they are so seldom attacked by insects; they
remain longer on the branches than those of any deciduous tree, and
give a cheerful air to the wood in winter. In the autumn they change to
a light yellow-brown, which makes a pretty contrast to the reds and
greens and purples of other trees. The branches start out almost
straight from the tree, but they very soon curve and turn regularly
upward. Every small twig turns in the same direction, making the long
leaf-buds at the end look like so many little spears. I showed you these
'stuck-up' buds when we were looking at the tree, and you noticed how
different they were from the other trees."
Yes, the children remembered it; and it always seemed to them
particularly nice to have part of the talk out of doors and the rest in
"Doesn't the beech tree have nuts?" asked Malcolm. "John says it does."
"Yes," replied Miss Harson; "it has tiny three-cornered nuts which seem
particularly small for so large a tree. But these nuts are eagerly
devoured by pigeons, partridges and squirrels. Bears are said to be very
fond of them, and swine fatten very rapidly upon them. Most varieties
are so small as not to repay the trouble of gathering, drying and
opening them. Fortunately, this is not the case with all, as it is a
delicious nut. In France the beech-nut is much used for making oil,
which is highly valued for burning in lamps and for cooking. In parts of
the same country the nuts, roasted, serve as a substitute for coffee."
"I'd like to find some when they're ripe," said Clara, "if they _are_
"We will have a search for them, then," was the reply, "when the time
comes.--The flowers which produce these little nuts are very showy and
grow in roundish tassels, or heads, which hang by thread-like, silky
stalks, one or two inches long, from the midst of the young leaves of a
newly-opened bud. A traveler says of these leaves, 'We used always to
think that the most luxurious and refreshing bed was that which prevails
universally in Italy, and which consists entirely of a pile of
mattresses filled with the luxuriant spathe of the Indian corn; which
beds have the advantage of being soft as well as elastic, and we have
always found the sleep enjoyed on them to be particularly sound and
restorative. But the beds made of beech-leaves are really no whit behind
them in these qualities, whilst the fragrant smell of green tea, which
the leaves retain, is most gratifying. The objection to them is the
slight crackling noise which the leaves occasion as the individual turns
in bed, but this is no inconvenience at all; or if so in any degree, it
is an inconvenience which is overbalanced by the advantages of this most
"But how funny," said Malcolm, "to sleep on leaves! That's what the
Babes in the Wood did."
"No," replied Clara, very earnestly, "they didn't sleep _on_ leaves, you
know; but when they had laid down and gone to sleep, the robins came and
covered them with leaves."
"Yes," chimed in little Edith; "I like that way best, because they'd be
so cold in the woods."
"And that really was the case," said Miss Harson, after listening with a
smile to this discussion, "although there were probably leaves on the
ground for the children to lie upon. A bed of leaves is not a bad thing
where there are no mattresses, and such a bed is often used as a matter
of course. You will remember my reading to you about the beds which the
Finland mothers make for their children of the leaves of the
canoe-birch. 'Leafy beds' are no strange thing--not mere poetry."
_THE TENT AND THE LOCUSTS_.
There came a bright balmy day in May when the children found a
delightful surprise awaiting them. The tent in the woods, which had been
proposed on the day when birch-twigs were found to be eatable, was
almost forgotten--or if thought of, it was as a thing that could not
possibly be--when, on the day in question, Miss Harson took her charges
out as usual, and led them to a very pretty cleared space with a fringe
of rocks and trees all around it. But on this spot, which hitherto had
been quite bare, there now stood some sort of a little house different
from other houses and quite pretty.
"It's a tent!" exclaimed Malcolm. "Who put it there, I should like to
know, on _our_ land?"
"Are there gypsies here, Miss Harson?" whispered Clara, rather
But the young lady walked deliberately up to the entrance of the tent
and invited her little flock to come inside.
"I know the gentleman who had it put here," she said, "and he is quite
willing that we should use it; but he will not give any one else
"I think I know him too," said Malcolm as he walked in after Miss
"And I!"--"And I!" exclaimed the little girls. "It is our own papa. How
very kind of him!"
"Yes," replied their governess; "he said, when I spoke of a tent, that
it would be a good thing for the wood-ramblers to have a place of
shelter when they were over-taken by a sudden shower, and also a place
in which to rest comfortably when they were tired; and this pretty tent,
you see, is all ready for us at any time."
It was a very nice tent indeed, having a long cushioned seat inside, two
little rocking-chairs that were at once appropriated, a small table, and
a bracket with books on it. On the table there was a round basket of
oranges, which made every one thirsty at once.
"I do believe," said Malcolm, suddenly, "that it's made of
"Not the orange, I hope?" replied Miss Harson, while the little sisters
looked up in surprise.
An India-rubber orange was a thing to be laughed at, though not to be
eaten, and the children were in such a state of glee over this pleasant
surprise that they were ready to laugh almost at nothing.
Presently their governess said,
"Malcolm means the tent, of course; and he is quite right, for the
covering is India-rubber cloth."
"But why isn't it dark and ugly, like the waterproofs?" was the next
"Simply because it need not be so, and it is prettier to have it white
or of this pale gray. But these shades are too conspicuous for overshoes
or waterproof cloaks, so the latter are made as dark as possible. The
caoutchoue, you know, is naturally white or very light colored."
"How do they make the cloth?" asked Malcolm.
"It is first made as cloth," was the reply; "then a thin coating of
India-rubber is spread over two layers of it. The cloth is then put
together and pressed between rollers, so that the two pieces firmly
adhere, with the caoutchoue between them. No rain can penetrate such a
screen as this,"
It was delightful to know that they would be safe and dry in case of a
shower, and the children thought it must be just the prettiest tent that
ever was made. The cushioned seat was covered with scarlet, and so were
the little chairs, which Clara and Edith knew were meant for them; the
edges of the cloth were scalloped with the same bright color, and there
was even a rug to match spread in front of the "divan," as Miss Harson
laughingly said the cushioned seat must be called.
"Haven't we 'most come to the end of the trees?" asked Clara. "I never
thought that there were so many different kinds,"
"Look around and see if you feel acquainted with them all," replied her
They had left the tent after quite a long "sitting," and were now on
their way to the house.
Clara's first glance, on doing as she had been directed, fell on three
trees by the side of a fence, that were different from any they had
"What do you notice about them?" continued Miss Harson; "for I wish you
to use your own eyes and thoughts as much as possible."
"Why, the trunk is dark gray, and it isn't smooth, but it looks as if
some one had dug out long, thin pieces of bark."
"We will call it 'deeply furrowed,'" said her governess, "as that is a
better expression; but your description is very good indeed."
"The leaves are ever so pretty," said Malcolm--"so many of 'em on one
stem!--and the green looks as if it was just made."
"You mean by that, I suppose," replied Miss Harson, "that it is a very
fresh tint; and we are seeing it in its first beauty now. This is the
locust tree, and May is its time for leafing out in the tenderest of
greens. The pinnate--from _pinna_, Latin for feather'--leaves are
composed of from nine to twenty-five leaflets, which are egg-shaped,
with a short point, very smooth, light green above and still lighter
beneath. These leaves are much liked by cattle, and they are said to be
very nutritious to them."
[Illustration: FOLIAGE OF HONEY-LOCUST.]
"How can you remember everything so, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm, lost
in wonder, as the young lady, looking up at the trees, said these things
as if they had been written there. John had declared that she talked
like a book, and this seemed more like it than ever.
"Oh no," was the laughing reply; "I do not remember _everything_,
Malcolm, and perhaps it is just as well that I do not. But I will not
tax my memory any more about the locust just now; we can take it up
again this evening."
"I should like to know," exclaimed Clara, after some thought, "why a
tree is called _locust_, when a locust is such a disagreeable insect?"
"I am afraid that I cannot tell you," replied Miss Harson, "unless the
color of the leaves is similar to that of the 'disagreeable insect,'
which is really very handsome, or unless the insects are very partial to
the tree; I have seen no explanation of it. But the tree itself is very
much admired, with its profusion of pinnate leaves and racemes of
flowers that fill the air with the most agreeable odors."
"What color are the flowers, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm.
"This description will tell you," was the reply. "The tree is not pretty
in winter, and has no promise of beauty until 'May hangs on these
withered boughs a green drapery that hides all their deformity; she
infuses into their foliage a perfection of verdure that no other tree
can rival, and a beauty in the forms of its leaves that renders it one
of the chief ornaments of the groves and waysides. June weaves into this
green foliage pendent clusters of flowers of mingled brown and white,
filling the air with fragrance and enticing the bee with odors as sweet
as from groves of citron and myrtle.'"
"That sounds pretty," said Clara, who liked imposing sentences, "but
brown and white are not very handsome colors for flowers."
"The white is certainly prettier without the mixture of brown," replied
her governess, "but we have to take our flowers ready-made, and can
hardly expect them to be beautiful and fragrant too. The separate
blossoms are shaped like those of the pea and bean; they hang in long
clusters somewhat resembling bunches of grapes. The leaves--or, rather,
leaflets--are very sensitive and have a habit of folding over one
another in wet and dull weather, and also in the night--a habit that is
peculiar to all the members of the acacia family, to which the
"I should think it ought to belong to the pea family," said Malcolm, "if
the flowers are shaped like pea-blossoms."
"So it does," replied Miss Harson--"or, rather, to the bean family, of
which the pea is a member, on account of its blossoms; but the acacia,
like many others, is a brother, or sister, on account of its leaves as
well as its blossoms. The peculiar distinction of this family is that
its flowers are butterfly-shaped or its fruit in pods, and it often
possesses both these characters. By one or the other all the plants of
the family are known, and the butterfly-shaped flowers are of a
character not to be mistaken, as they are found in no other family. It
includes herbs, shrubs and trees--an immense and perfectly natural
family, distributed throughout almost every part of the globe. There are
at present in all not less than thirty-seven hundred species. So you see
that the locust tree is certainly rich in relations."
The children thought that it must have some family claim on almost
every plant in the world.
[Illustration: CAROB TREE AND FRUIT.]
"Do you remember that in the story of the Prodigal Son, told by our
Lord, it is said that the bad son became so poor that he wanted to eat
the 'husks' that the swine ate? Those 'husks' were the fruit of a Syrian
member of this family. The tree is the carob tree, of which you have
here a picture--a fine large tree bearing a sweet pod containing the
seeds. I have seen these pods for sale in this country, and foolishly
called St. John's bread, as if the 'locusts' eaten by John the Baptist
were pods of a locust tree, and not insect locusts."
"Yes," said Malcolm, "I have tasted those pods, and they are real sweet;
but I wouldn't care to make a breakfast from them."
"I like calling the flowers 'butterfly-shaped,'" said Clara, "because
that is just what the pea and bean-blossoms look like; though Kitty
calls 'em 'little ladies in hoods.' Isn't that funny, Miss Harson?"
"It is very quaint, I think, but I do not dislike it: it is like seeing
faces in pansies; and some people are full of these odd imaginations.
There is a kind of locust, called the clammy-barked, found in the
Southern parts of the United States, which is a smaller tree than the
common locust and has large pale-pink flowers, while the rose acacia is
a very beautiful flowering shrub. The sweet, or honey, locust is
another variety, which is also called the three-thorned acacia, because
the thorns consist of one long spine with two shorter ones projecting
out of it, like little branches, near its base. This is said to display
much of the elegance of the tropical acacia in the minute division and
symmetry of its compound leaves. These are of a light and brilliant
green and lie flat upon the branches, giving them a fan-like appearance
such as we observe in the hemlock."
"But why is it called honey-locust?" asked Malcolm. "Do the bees make
honey in the trunk?"
"No," replied his governess; "the name comes from the sweetness of the
pulp around the seeds, which ripen in large flat pods, and of which boys
and girls are fond. But the flowers of this species are only small
greenish aments. Locust-wood is very durable, and, as it will bear
exposure to all kinds of weather, it is much used in shipbuilding and as
posts for gates. It is thought that the shittah and shittim wood of the
Bible, of which Moses made the greater part of the tables, altars and
planks of the tabernacle, was the same as the black acacia found in the
deserts of Arabia and about Mount Sinai and the mountains which border
on the Red Sea, and is so hard and solid as to be almost incorruptible.
"And now," added Miss Harson, "reading of the numerous relations of the
locust, considering that 'the acacia, not less valued for its airy
foliage and elegant blossoms than for its hard and durable wood; the
braziletto, logwood and rosewoods of commerce; the laburnum; the furze
and the broom, both the pride of the otherwise dreary heaths of Europe;
the bean, the pea, the vetch, the clover, the trefoil, the lucerne--all
staple articles of culture by the farmer--are so many species of
Leguminosae, and that the gums Arabic and Senegal, kino and various
precious medicinal drugs, not to mention indigo, the most useful of all
dyes, are products of other species,--it will be perceived that it would
be difficult to point out an order with greater claims upon the
_THE WALNUT FAMILY AND THE AILANTHUS_.
"The walnut family," said Miss Harson, "with the ugly name
_Juglandaceae_, are distinguished by pinnate, or compound, leaves, which
have an aromatic odor when crushed, and by blossoms in catkins. Of these
trees, the black walnut is one of the handsomest and most
"Are there any of them here?" asked Malcolm.
[Illustration: THE WALNUT TREE.]
"No," was the reply; "I do not think you have ever seen one. They are
more common in the western part of the Middle States and in the Western
States; in Ohio particularly they grow to a very large size. Solitary
trees are sometimes seen in this part of the country, and the branches,
extending themselves horizontally to a great distance, spread out into a
spacious head, which gives them a very majestic appearance. The trunk
is rough and furrowed, and the leaves have from six to ten pairs of
leaflets and an odd one. They are smooth, strongly serrated and rather
pointed; the color is a light, bright green. The catkins are green, from
four to seven inches long, and hang from the axils of the last year's
leaves. The leaves are much longer than those of the locust, and the
leaf-stalk is downy. The nut, which is very oily, is shaped like an
English walnut, but resembles it in no other way, as the shell is very
thick and dark-colored. When thoroughly dried, the black walnut is very
much liked--as I think some witnesses here could testify--and is used in
"And just the nicest kind of candy, too," said the children, with one
Their governess smiled, for this was very much her own opinion.
"You do not know," she continued, "how strangely these nuts grow. They
have an outer husk, or rind, which when green is hard and has a very
pleasant smell; the tree then seems to be covered with green balls. As
the nuts ripen this outer part becomes so dark that it is almost black
and grows soft and spongy. A rich brown dye is made from it.
Black-walnut wood has long been famous for its beauty, and it grows
deeper and darker with age. It is handsomely shaded and takes a fine
polish, and this, with its durability, makes it very valuable for
furniture. Posts made of it will last a long time, and it can be put to
almost any use for which hard-wood is available.
"The walnut tree has a great variety of good qualities in addition to
its fine appearance and generous shade. From the kernel a valuable oil
may be obtained for use in cookery and in lamps. Bread has also been
made from the kernels. The spongy husk of the nuts is used as dyestuff.
It thus unites almost all the qualities desirable in a tree--beauty,
gracefulness and richness of foliage in every period of its growth; bark
and husks which may be employed in an important art; fruit valuable as
food; wood unsurpassed in durability and in elegance."
"I like English walnuts," said Clara, "they have such thin, pretty
shells; and papa, you know, can open them in just two halves with
"Once," said Miss Harson, "I had a little bag sent to me made of two
very large walnut shells with blue silk between, and in this bag there
was a pair of kid gloves rolled up very tight."
"Oh!" exclaimed the children. It sounded like a fairy-tale, but they
knew that it was true, because Miss Harson said that it had really
happened. They were very much surprised, though, that a bag could be
made of nutshells, and that a pair of gloves could be crowded into so
small a compass.
"Did it come from England?" asked Malcolm.
"No," replied his governess; "it was sent to me from the island of
Madeira, where these nuts grow so abundantly that they have often been
called Madeira-nuts. It also grows abundantly in Europe, and the nuts
are used for dessert, pickling, and many other purposes, while the
poorer classes often depend largely on them for food."
"Do they eat 'em instead of bread?" asked Edith. "I'd like that; they're
ever so much nicer!"
"Perhaps you would not think so if you had hardly anything else to eat;
you would get tired of them then. In many places on the continent of
Europe the roads are lined with walnut trees for miles together, and in
the proper season the people may feast upon the fruit as much as they
like. A person, it is said, once traveled from Florence to Geneva and
ate nothing by the way but walnuts; but I must say that I should not
like to do it. One species bears a nut as large as an egg; but if kept
any time, it will shrink to half its natural size. The shell of this
great walnut, we are told, is sometimes used for making little
ornamental boxes to hold gloves and small fancy-articles; so you see
that mine was not the only glove-bag made of two walnut-shells."
"How pretty they must be!" said Clara. "I should like to see one."
"I think that I can make one when I get a large nut, and I shall be glad
to show you how it is done."
This was a delightful prospect, and the children volunteered to save for
that especial purpose all the large nuts they could find.
"The English walnut tree," continued Miss Harson, "is a native of
Persia or the North of China, and the long pinnated leaves seem to mark
its Oriental origin; but it has taken very kindly to its European home.
In some parts of Germany the walnut trees were considered to be such a
valuable possession that no young man was allowed to marry until he
owned a certain number; and if one tree was cut down, another was
"Don't they grow in this country?" asked Malcolm.
"Not very often in our more northern States," was the reply, "for the
climate here is too cold for them; but at a house where I visited there
was an English walnut tree in the garden, and it seemed to do very well.
The nuts were always gathered while they were green, and made
This was considered quite dreadful, for ripe nuts were certainly a great
deal better than pickles.
"But there was a great deal of uncertainty about having the ripe nuts,
for there were bad boys all around who would not have hesitated to rob
the tree. Besides, pickled walnuts are considered a great delicacy by
those who eat such things. There are some other ways, too, of using the
nuts, which you would not like any better. One of these is to make them
into oil, as the people do in the South of Europe; this oil is used to
burn in their lamps and as an article of food. 'In Piedmont, among the
light-hearted peasantry, cracking the walnuts and taking them from the
shell is a holiday proceeding. The peasants, with their wives and
children, assemble in the evening, after their day's work is over, in
the kitchen of some chateau where the walnuts have been gathered, and
where their services are required. They sit round a table, and at each
end is a man with a small mallet, who cracks the walnuts and passes them
on; the rest of the party take them out of their shells. At supper-time
the table is cleared, and a repast of dried fruit, vegetables and wine
is set out. The remainder of the evening is spent in singing and
dancing. The crushing and pressing of the nuts, for oil, take place
when the whole harvest is in.'"
"But don't walnuts come from California? Our grocer said he had
California nuts," remarked Malcolm.
"Yes; that wonderful country is beginning to supply us with English
"Are you going to tell us a story, Miss Harson?" asked Edith, hopefully.
"I have no story, dear," was the reply, "but there is something here
which you may like about birds stealing the nuts."
Of course they would like this; for if there was to be no story, birds
and stealing promised to furnish a good substitute.
"'Birds are as fond of walnuts as we are,'" read Miss Harson, "'and rob
the trees without any mercy. Not only the little titmouse, but the grave
and solemn rook'--a kind of crow, you remember--'is not above paying a
visit to the walnut tree and stealing all he can find. There is a walnut
tree growing in a garden the owner of which may be said to have planted
it for the benefit of the rooks. Not that he had any such purpose, but,
as it happens, he cannot help himself. The rooks begin a series of
robberies as soon as the fruit is ripe, and carry them on with an
adroitness that would be amusing but for the result. As many as fifty
rooks come, one after the other, and each will carry off a walnut. The
old ones are the most at home in the process, and the most daring. The
bird approaches the tree and floats for a second in the air, as if
occupied in finding out which of the walnuts will be the easiest to
obtain; then, with a bold stroke, he darts at the one selected, and
rarely misses his aim.
"'The young rooks are much more timid and not so successful. They settle
on the branch and knock down a great many walnuts in their clumsy
attempts to secure one. Even when the walnut has been obtained, the
young rook is not sure of his prize: one of his older and stronger
brethren is very likely to attack him and knock the walnut out of his
bill. Then, by a dextrous swoop, the robber catches it up before it
reaches the ground, and carries it off in triumph. The feasting ground
of the rooks is the next field, and here they come to eat their walnuts.
They crack the shell with their beaks and devour the kernel with great
relish. Then, when one walnut is finished, they fly back to the tree for
another. There is no chance for the owner of the garden, who does not
think it worth while even to shake his tree: he knows there will not be
a single walnut left.'"
"I should think not, with those greedy creatures," exclaimed Malcolm.
"Why doesn't the man shoot 'em?"
"He probably thinks it would be of little use, when there are such
numbers of the birds; besides, he may prefer losing his walnuts to
disturbing them, for rooks are treated with great consideration in
England, and there is no such wholesale destruction of birds as is
The rooks were certainly very comical, and the children thought this
little account of their antics over the walnut tree the next best thing
to a story.
"Another fine shade-tree," continued Miss Harson, "and one very much
like the black walnut, is the butternut, or oil-nut, tree. It is low
and broad-headed, spreading into several large branches; the leaves are
pinnate, like those of the walnut, but have not so many leaflets. The
nut has an entirely different taste, and is even more oily. To many
persons it is not at all agreeable. It is a great favorite, though, with
country-boys, and in October, when the kernel is ripe, they may be seen
with deeply-stained hands and faces, as the thin, leathery husks when
handled leave plentiful traces. The butternut is not round like the
walnut, but oblong, and pointed at the end; it is about two inches in
length and marked by deep furrows and sharp irregular ridges. It is very
pretty when sawn across in slices, and looks like scroll-saw work.--We
shall have to get some, Malcolm, for you to practice on with your saw."
[Illustration: THE BUTTERNUT TREE.]
As his scroll-saw was just then the delight of Malcolm's heart, he felt
particularly interested in butternuts, and immediately mapped out in his
mind something very beautiful to be wrought with them for his governess.
"The bark and the nutshells have long been used to give a brown color to
wool, and the Shakers dye a rich purple with it. The bark of the trunk
will give a black and that of the root a fawn-colored dye, while an
inferior sugar has been made from the sap. The young half-grown nuts are
much used for pickles. Butternut-wood is exceedingly handsome, of a
pale, reddish tint, and durable when exposed to heat and moisture. It
makes beautiful fronts for drawers and excellent light, tough and
durable wooden bowls. It is also used for the panels of carriages, as
well as for posts and rails. It is a more common tree than the walnut in
our part of the country; there is a large one in front of a house a few
miles from here which I will show you on our next drive."
"I am glad of it," said Clara, "for I can remember about the trees so
much better when I have seen them. I wish we could see every one of the
trees you have told us of, Miss Harson."
"Perhaps you will some day," replied her governess, "and you will then
find that a little knowledge of them before-hand is a great help."
"Are there any more of the walnut family?" asked Malcolm.
"Yes, the hickory belongs to it; and this is a tree which is peculiar to
America. The European walnut is more like it than any other. It is
always a stately and elegant tree and very valuable for its timber.
There are several varieties, which are much alike, the principal
difference being in the nuts. You have all seen most of the trees and
gathered the nuts. They are:
"1. The shellbark, with five large leaflets, a large nut, of which the
husk is deeply grooved at the seams, and a rough, scaly trunk.
"2. The mocker-nut, with seven or nine leaflets, a hard, thick-shelled
nut, and leaflets and twigs very downy when young, and strongly odorous.
"3. The pignut, with three, five or seven narrow leaflets, small,
thin-shelled fruit and a pretty hard nut.
"4. The bitternut, with seven, nine or eleven small, narrow, serrated
leaves, small fruit with long, prominent seams, bitter and thin-shelled
nuts and very yellow buds.
"The shellbark is often called 'shagbark,' and it is the finest of the
hickories and one that is seldom mistaken for any of the others. It may
readily be distinguished by the shaggy bark of its trunk, the excellence
of its globular fruit, its leaves, which are large and have five
leaflets, and by its ovate, half-covered buds. It is a tall, slender
tree with irregular branches, and the foliage seems to lie in masses of
dense, dark green. But in October, when the nuts ripen, the leaves turn
to orange-brown, and finally to the color of a russet apple; so that
they do not add greatly to the beauty of the forest."
"But the nuts are good," said Malcolm. "Didn't we have fine times
picking 'em up?"
"We did indeed," replied Miss Harson, "and I hope we shall again."
"How long will it be before they are ripe?" asked the little girls.
"Just about five months, I think."
"Oh dear!" was the reply; "that's _so_ long to wait!"
"But you needn't wait," said their governess; "you can enjoy each season
as it comes, and all the good things that our heavenly Father sends with
it. Remember that, as you cannot expect ripe nuts in May or June,
neither can you look for strawberries and roses in October. Tents are of
very little use then, too."
"Oh!" exclaimed the children, to whom the tent was still a delightful
novelty; and they decided not to wish just yet for nutting-time to come.
"The nut, as you have so often seen, is covered with a brown husk that
is very thick and marked with four furrows, by which it separates into
as many distinct pieces, one being larger than the rest. The nuts
differ very much in size and shape, and also in hardness, but the best
kinds have thin shells and soft kernels; they are also rounder and
fuller than the poorer sorts. There is a peculiar sweetness in the taste
of this nut when in its best condition, and it is quite equal to the
European walnut. The wood of this tree is particularly valuable for
fuel, and in old times, when wood-fires were the only kind known, a good
hickory back-log was sure to be found on every hearth. It is the
heaviest of our native woods, and the wise men say that it yields, pound
for pound or cord for cord, more heat than any other, in any shape in
which it may be consumed."
"But what a pity," said Clara, "to burn up trees that bear nuts! Why
can't they take those that don't?"
"They are not so desirable for fuel," was the reply; "and when people
own trees which they are willing to turn into money, they generally
consider in what way they can get the most for them. Nuts which grow in
the woods and fields are a very uncertain crop, of which every one
seems to gather more than the owner, and it is therefore more profitable
for him to cut his trees down and sell them for their wood, which the
people in the cities and towns are so glad to get."
"What's the use," asked Malcolm, "of calling a tree such a name as
_mocker-nut_? What does it mean?"
"That is just what I have not been able to find out," replied Miss
Harson, "but it has an Indian sound, and it seems that the Indians used
to make a black dye from the bark; so we will give them the credit for
it. The name is not often used, for the tree is generally known as the
white walnut. The nut is the largest of the hickories, being often from
four to six inches around, and it is shaped somewhat like a pear. One
variety, however, is known as the square nut. The shell is very thick
and hard, but the kernel is sweet when once it is gotten out. This tree
is as stately and finely-shaped as the shagbark. It varies from the
other hickories in the number of its leaflets, which are seven or nine,
the down on its leaves and recent shoots, the hardness of the husk and
thickness of the nut, the roundness of its large covered buds, and the
strong resinous odor in leaves, buds and husks. In its general
appearance it resembles the shellbark, as well as in the fullness of its
foliage and the size of its leaves. 'White-heart hickory' is a name
often given to this species, because the wood is supposed, when young,
to be whiter than that of any of the others,"
"_Pignut_ is another beautiful name," said Malcolm, who was disposed to
be critical. "Do pigs ever eat the nuts, Miss Harson?"
"I dare say that they do when they have the chance," was the reply, "as
they delight in nuts; but that is said not to be the proper name for the
species. Some of the nuts are shaped like a fresh fig, and 'fig-nut'
seems to be the name originally intended. But there is a great variety
in the shape of the nuts, as some are nearly round and others very
irregular. They are alike, however, in having very hard, tough shells,
and the kernel is not pleasant enough to repay the trouble of getting
at it. These nuts are very apt to grow in pairs, and several bushels of
them can be gathered from one tree."
"Aren't they good to eat?" asked Clara.
"Not at all good," replied her governess, "except to those who are not
particular about what they eat; and this may be the reason for calling
"_Bitternut_ doesn't sound much better," said Malcolm, again. "I wonder
what that species has to say for itself?"
"Not very much, I am afraid, for it is sometimes called the bitter
pignut, and even boys will not eat it, while squirrels refuse to feed on
it when any other nut can be found. The shell of this nut is so thin
that it can be broken in the fingers, but, as no one cares to break it,
it is safer than many a thicker shell. It is intensely bitter, and well
deserves its name. The tree, however, is handsome and the most graceful
of all the hickories; the small, slender leaves give it the look of an
ash, and the trunk is smoother than that of most large trees. In summer
the finely-cut foliage is of a bright green, and in autumn it changes
to a rich orange, which lasts after the other species have become russet
"Is there anything more about hickory trees?" said Clara.
"Only to speak of the great value of the wood," replied Miss Harson.
"Its uses are almost endless. Great numbers of walking-sticks are made
of it, as for this purpose no other native wood equals it in beauty and
strength. It is next in value to white oak for making hoops; it makes
the best screws, the smoothest and most durable handles for chisels,
augurs, gimlets, axes, and many other common tools. As fuel, hickory is
preferred to every other wood, burning freely, making a pleasant,
brilliant fire and throwing out great heat. Charcoal made from it is
heavier than that made from any other wood, but it is not considered
more valuable than that of birch or alder. The ashes of hickories abound
in alkali, and are considered better for the purpose of making soap than
any other of the native woods, being next to those of the apple tree."
"There, Clara!" said Malcolm; "you see now why people cut down hickory
trees. The nuts are nowhere, with all these other things."
"We have finished the walnut family," said Miss Harson, "but there is a
tree that I wish to speak of here because of its long pinnate leaves,
which appear to connect it with the walnuts and hickories. This is the
ailanthus, a large tree which you have often seen in the village, and
which used to be popular as a shade-tree. It is very clean-looking, for
the only insect that will eat its leaves is the silkworm."
"Oh, Miss Harson!" exclaimed the children. "Are there real silkworms on
'em? and can we see 'em?"
"Why, do you not remember our talk about silkworms?" replied their
governess. "I am sure I told you that they would not live here in the
open air, but they do in China; and the ailanthus is a Chinese tree. It
was planted in Great Britain over a hundred years ago for the express
purpose of feeding silkworms, because a species of silkworm which was
known to be hardy and capable of forming its cocoons in the English
climate is attached to this tree and feeds upon its leaves. It was not
successful, however, for silkworms, but as a stately and ornamental tree
with tropical-looking foliage it was much admired. The ailanthus is
quite common in this country as a wayside tree. It possesses a good deal
of beauty, from the size and graceful sweep of its large compound
leaves, that retain their brightness and verdure after midsummer, when
our native trees have become dull. These leaves have nine or ten
leaflets as large as a beech-leaf."
"Isn't that the tree that smells so in summer?" asked Clara, with a
"Yes; the greenish flowers have a particularly disagreeable odor, which
is very strong and penetrating, and this is probably the reason why the
tree has lost favor in so many places. But this is only during the
season of blossoming, and for several months it is a beautiful
Oriental-looking tree with every leaf perfect, while nearly all other
foliage is more or less ravaged by insects."
_SOME BEAUTIFUL TREES: THE CHESTNUT AND HORSE-CHESTNUT._
The nearest trees to the tent, and standing just back of it, were two
magnificent chestnuts, now in full leaf-beauty; and Miss Harson and her
little flock stood admiring their majestic size and beautiful color.
"These are the handsomest trees yet," said Malcolm.
"I almost think so myself," replied his governess, gazing up into the
rich green depths, "and I wish you particularly to notice these
radiated--or star-like--tufts of foliage. The leaves, you see, are long,
lengthened to a tapering point, serrated--or notched like a saw--at the
edge, and of a bright and nearly pure green. Though arranged
alternately, like those of the beech, on the recent branches, they are
clustered in stars containing from five to seven leaves on the fruitful
branches that grow out from the perfected wood. Now stand off a little
and see how the foliage seems to be all in tufts, each composed of
several long, pointed leaves drooping from the centre. The aments, too,
with their light silvery-green tint, glisten beautifully on the
"How high do you think these trees are, Miss Harson?" asked Clara. "It
makes me dizzy to look up to the top."
[Illustration: LEAF OF THE CHESTNUT.]
"They can be scarcely less than ninety feet," was the reply, "and they
are very fine specimens of the family; but the great chestnut which is
the only tree in the field on the left of the house is broader. It
spreads out like an apple tree, because it has abundance of room, and it
is nearly as broad as it is high."
"And aren't its chestnuts just splendid?" exclaimed Malcolm--"the
biggest we find anywhere."
[Illustration: THE CHESTNUT TREE.]
"The bark, you see," continued his governess, "is very dark-colored,
hard and rugged, with long, deep clefts. In smaller and younger trees it
is smooth. I suppose I need not tell you that the fruit is within a burr
covered with sharp, stiff bristles which are not handled with impunity.
It opens by four valves more than halfway down when ripe, and contains
the nuts, from one to three in number, in a downy cup. These green burrs
are very ornamental to the tree; and when they are ripe, the green takes
on a yellow tinge."
"You didn't say anything about the cunning little tails of the nuts,
Miss Harson," said Edith, in a disappointed tone. "I think they're the
prettiest part, and they stick up in the burr like little mice-tails."
"Well, dear," was the smiling reply, "_you_ have told us about them, and
I think you have given a very good description. That is just what they
always reminded me of when I was about your age--little mice-tails."
Edith looked pleased and shy, and she did not mind Malcolm's laughing at
her "little tails," because Miss Harson used to think the same as she
did about them.
"This beautiful tree came from Asia, and it belongs to the _Castanea_
family, the Greeks having given it that name from a town in Pontus where
they obtained it. It was transplanted into the North and West, and is
now found in most temperate regions. The wood of the chestnut is very
valuable, as it is strong, elastic and durable, and is often used as a
substitute for oak and pine. It makes very beautiful furniture."
"What kind of chestnuts," asked Clara, "are those great big ones, like
horse-chestnuts, that they have in some of the stores? Are they good
"Yes," replied Miss Harson; "they are particularly good, and many people
in the southern countries of Europe almost live on them. They are three
or four times larger than our nuts, these Spanish and Italian chestnuts,
and they are eaten instead of bread and potatoes by the peasantry of
Spain and Italy. The Spanish chestnut is one of the most stately of
European trees, and sometimes it is found growing in our own country,
but never in the woods. It is carefully planted and cultivated as an
ornamental tree for private grounds. And now," added the young lady, "as
we have sufficiently examined our American chestnut trees and it is
rather damp and cool to-day for tent-life, suppose we return to the
house and get better acquainted with the foreign chestnuts?"
Edith asked if there was to be a story, but she did not complain when
Miss Harson thought not, only an account of a very large tree; for the
children always felt quite sure that there would be something which they
would like to hear.
* * * * *
The evening was damp, and Clara said that, the schoolroom looked like a
mixture of summer and winter. The fire was both pleasant and
comfortable, but there were lilacs and tulips and hyacinths and plenty
of wild flowers in vases and baskets; the leaves were all out on the
trees by the windows, and the grass was like velvet.
"One of the largest trees in the world, if not the largest," said Miss
Harson, "is a chestnut tree on the side of Mount Etna, in Sicily, which
abounds with chestnut trees of giant proportions and remarkable beauty.
It is called 'The Chestnut Tree of a Hundred Horses,' and this title is
said to have originated in a report that a queen of Aragon once took
shelter under its branches attended by her principal nobility, all of
whom found refuge from a violent storm under the spreading boughs of the
tree. At one time it was supposed that the tree really consisted of a
clump of several united, but this is not the case; for on digging away
the earth the root was found entire, and at no great depth. Five
enormous branches rise from the trunk, the outside surface of each being
covered with bark, while on the inside is none. The verdure and the
support of the tree thus depend on the outer bark alone. The intervals
between the branches are of various extent, one of them being sufficient
to allow two carriages to drive abreast. In the middle cavity--or what
is called the hollow--of the tree a hut has been built for the use of
persons employed in collecting and preserving the fruit. They dry the
chestnuts in an oven, and then make them into various conserves for
sale. A whole caravan of men and animals were once accommodated in the
enclosure, and also a flock of sheep folded there. The age of this
prodigious tree must be very great indeed. It belongs to the tribe
which bears sweet, or edible, chestnuts, that form an agreeable article
of food. The foliage is rich, shadowy and beautiful.
"The wood of the chestnut is much used in England for hop-poles, and old
houses in London are floored or wainscoted with it. The beautiful roof
of Westminster Abbey is made of chestnut wood.
"There are magnificent forests of Spanish chestnuts in the Apennines,
and it was the favorite tree of the great painter Salvator Rosa, who
spent much time studying the beautiful play of light and shade on its
foliage. The peasants make a gala-time of gathering and preparing the
nuts. A traveler, having penetrated the extensive forest which covers
the Vallombrosan Apennines for nearly five miles, came unexpectedly upon
those festive scenes, which are not unfrequent among the chestnut-range.
It was a holiday, and a group of peasants dressed in the gay and
picturesque attire of the neighborhood of the Arno were dancing in an
open and level space covered with smooth turf and surrounded with
magnificent chestnuts, while the inmost recesses of the forest resounded
with their mirth and minstrelsy. Some beat down the chestnuts with
sticks and filled baskets with them, which they emptied from time to
time; others, stretched listlessly upon the turf, picked out the
contents of the bristling capsules in which the kernels were entrenched,
for these, when newly gathered, are sweet and nutritious; others again,
and especially young peasant-girls, pelted their companions with
"Like snowballing," said Malcolm; "only the prickers must have stung.
What grand times they had with their chestnuting!"
"These gay, thoughtless people," replied his governess, "almost live in
the open air and enjoy the present moment. It is not easy to tell what
they would do without these bountiful chestnut-harvests, for their
principal article of food is a thick porridge called _polenta_, which
they make from the ground nuts. In France a kind of cake is made from
the same material, and the chestnuts are prepared by drying them in
smoke. Another dish is like mashed potatoes, and large quantities are
exported in the shape of sweetmeats, made by dipping them, after
boiling, into clarified sugar and drying them."
"Miss Harson," asked Clara, "why are horse-chestnuts _called_
'horse-chestnuts '? Do horses like 'em?"
"Not usually," was the reply. "The nuts are sometimes ground and given
to horses, but, as sheep, deer and other cattle eat them in their
natural state, it would seem more reasonable to name them after some of
those animals, if that was the reason. It is likely that because they
look like chestnuts, but are much larger, they were called
'horse-chestnuts,' The tree is not in any respect a chestnut; and when
it was first planted in England, some centuries ago, it was called 'a
rare foreign tree,' and was much admired. It is supposed to have come
from India. The large nuts are like chestnuts in appearance.--Except,
Edith, that they have no 'cunning little tails.'--In the month of May
there is not a more beautiful tree to be found than the horse-chestnut,
with its large, deeply-cut leaves of a bright-green color and its long,
tapering spikes of variegated flowers, which turn upward from the dense
foliage. The tree at this time has been compared to a huge chandelier,
and the erect blossoms to so many wax lights. The bitter nuts ripen
early in the autumn and fall from the tree, but long before this the
beautiful foliage has turned rusty in our Northern States, and is no
longer ornamental. The overshadowing branches, which give such a
pleasant shade in summer, early in autumn begin to show the ravages of
the insects or the natural decay of the leaves."
"Then," said Malcolm, "it isn't a nice tree to have, and I'm glad that
there are elms here instead."
"I should like to have some of all the trees," replied Clara, "because
then we could study about them better.--Wouldn't you, Miss Harson?"
"I think so," said her governess, "if they were not undesirable to have,
as some trees are. If it were always May, I should want horse-chestnut
trees; for I think there is scarcely anything so pretty as those fresh
leaves and blossoms. The branches, too, begin low down, and that gives
the tree a generous spreading look which is very attractive in the way
of shade. In more southern States they have a longer season of beauty
than those in the North."
"Do people ever eat the horse-chestnut?" asked Edith.
"Not often, dear--it is too bitter; but an old writer who lived in the
days when it was first seen in England says that he planted it in his
orchard as a fruit tree, between his mulberry and his walnut, and that
he roasted the chestnuts and ate them. It is like the bitternut-hickory,
which even boys will not eat."
"I should think that somebody or something ought to eat it," said Clara,
thoughtfully; "it seems like such a waste."
Everyone laughed at her wise air, and she was asked if she intended to
set the example. She was not quite ready, though, to do that; and Miss
"A naturalist once took from the tree a tiny flower-bud and proceeded to
dissect it. After the external covering, which consisted of seventeen
scales, he came upon the down which protects the flower. On removing
this he could perceive four branchlets surrounding the spike of flowers,
and the flowers themselves, though so minute, were as distinct as
possible, and he could not only count their number, but discern the
stamens, and even the pollen."
"Oh!" exclaimed the children; "how very curious!"
"Yes," replied their governess; "it shows how perfect and wonderful,
from the beginning, are all the works of God."
_AMONG THE PINES_.
"How good it smells here!" exclaimed Edith, with her small nose in the
air to inhale what she called "a good sniff" in the fragrant pine-woods.
Miss Harson had taken the children in the carriage to a pine-grove some
miles from Elmridge, and Thomas and the horses waited by the roadside
while the little party walked about or stood gazing up at the tall
slender trees that seemed to tower to the very skies. Thomas was not
fond of waiting, but he thought that he had the best of it in this case:
it was more cheerful to sit in the carriage and "flick" the flies from
Rex and Regina than to go poking about in the gloomy pine-woods. Yet,
notwithstanding the darkness of its interior and the sombre character of
its dense masses of evergreen foliage as seen from without--whence the
name of "black timber," which has been applied to it--the shade and
shelter it affords and the sentiment of grandeur it inspires cause it to
become allied with the most profound and agreeable sensations; and it
was something of this feeling, though they could not express it in
words, which possessed the young tree-hunters as they stood in the
"It's nice to breathe here," said Clara.
"It is delicious," replied her governess, enthusiastically, her eyes
kindling as she repeated the lines:
"'His praise, ye winds, that from four quarter blow,
Breathe soft and loud; and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship. Wave!'"
"What a queer brown color--almost like red--the ground is!" said
Malcolm. "And look, Miss Harson! it's made of lots of little
"The sharp sticks are pine-needles," was the reply--"the dead
pine-leaves of last year; and when the new growth of leaves have been
put forth, they cover the ground with a smooth brown matting as
comfortable as a gravel-walk, and yet a carpet of Nature's making. 'The
foliage of the pine is so hard and durable that in summer we always find
the last year's crop lying upon the ground in a state of perfect
soundness, and under it that of the preceding year only partially
"It's kind of slippery in some places," continued Malcolm, taking a
slide as he spoke. "And see those queer-looking roots sprouting out of
"I see the roots," said Miss Harson, "but no sprouts. That is the white
pine, the roots of which are often seen above the ground, spreading to
some distance from the trunk. Generally the roots of pine trees are
small, compared with the size of the trunks, and spread horizontally
instead of descending far into the ground. For this reason pines are
often uprooted by high winds, which break off the deciduous trees near
the ground. But I wish you particularly to notice the trunks of these
trees and tell me if you can see any difference in them."
Those particular trees had probably never been stared at so hard
before, and the three children exclaimed almost together:
"Some are rough, and some are smooth, and the rough ones have little
bunches of leaves on 'em."
"These are the pitch-pines," replied their governess. "They are the
roughest of all our forest-trees, and they have a rounder head than any
of the other American evergreens. The branches, you see, turn in various
directions and are curved downward at the ends. This tree has also the
peculiar habit of sending out little branchlets full of leaves along the
stem from the root upward, and this has a very pretty effect, like that
of some elm trees. It is the pitch-pine that produces the fragrance we
are all enjoying so much. What do you notice about the smoother trees?"
"They are very tall and big," replied Clara--"ever so much handsomer
than the rough ones."
[Illustration: THE WHITE PINE.]
"The white pine," said Miss Harson, "is one of the loftiest and most
valuable of North American trees. Its top can be seen at a great
distance, looking like a spire as it towers above the heads of the trees
around it. You see that it has widespread branches and silken-looking,
tufted foliage. The leaves are in fives and not so stiff as those of the
other pines, and you will notice that the branches are in whorls, like a
series of stages one above another. The foliage has a tasseled effect
with those long silky tufts at the ends of the branches, and the whole
outline of the tree is very pleasing."
"This isn't a pine tree, is it?" asked Malcolm, touching a small tree
with very slender branches, some of them as slight as willow-withes and
covered with grayish-red bark, while that on the main stem was
[Illustration: THE LARCH.]
"It is a species of pine," was the reply, "because it belongs to the
Coniferae, or cone-producing, family; but it is not an evergreen,
although it ranks as such. This is the larch--generally called in New
England by its Indian name of _hacmatack_--and it differs from the other
pines in its crowded tufts of leaves, which, after turning to a soft
leather-color, fall, in New England, early in November. The cones, too,
are very small."
"What's the use of cones, any way?" asked Malcolm as he picked up some
very large ones under the white and pitch pines.
"Their principal use," replied his governess, "is to contain the seeds
of future trees: they are the fruit of the pine; but they have a number
of uses besides, which you shall hear about this evening."
"The little cones at Hemlock Lodge are pretty," said Edith, "and Clara
and me play with 'em. We play they're a orphan-'sylum."
[Illustration: FOLIAGE OF THE LARCH (_Larix Americana_).]
"'Clara and I,' dear," corrected Miss Harson, smiling at the
"orphan-'sylum," while Malcolm said he had never thought of that before,
and it must be what they were meant for. Edith could not quite
understand whether this was fun or earnest, but Miss Harson shook her
head at Malcolm and called him "naughty boy."
"The spruce and hemlock," continued their governess, "and many of the
other evergreens, we have at Elmridge, but I brought you here to-day for
our drive that you might examine these magnificent pine trees, and so be
better able to understand whatever we can find out about them this
evening. Thomas is probably tired of waiting by this time; so we will
leave the fragrant pine-woods for the present, and promise ourselves
some future visits."
Every green thing was now in full summer beauty, and daisies and
buttercups gemmed the fields, while the garden at Elmridge was all aglow
with blossoms, The children remembered their flower-studies of last
year, and took fresh pleasure in the woods because of them; but the
trees now seemed quite as interesting as the flowers had been.
* * * * *
"The trees known as evergreens," said Miss Harson, "are not so bright
and cheerful-looking as those which are deciduous, or leaf-shedding, but
they have the advantage of being clothed with foliage, although of a
sober hue, all the year round. They consist of pines, firs, junipers,
cypresses, spruces, larches, yews and hemlocks, with some foreign trees,
and form a distinct and striking natural group. 'This family has claims
to our particular attention from the importance of its products in
naval, and especially in civil and domestic, architecture, and in many
other arts, and, in some instances, in medicine. Some of the species in
this country are of more rapid growth, attain to a larger size and rise
to a loftier height than any other trees known. The white pine is much
the tallest of our native trees.'"
"How high does it grow, Miss Harson?" asked Clara.
"From one hundred and fifty to two hundred feet," was replied, "and on
the north-west coast of America one called the 'Douglas's pine' is the
loftiest tree known; it is said to measure over three hundred feet.
'From the pines are obtained the best masts and much of the most
valuable ship-timber, and in the building and finishing of houses they
are of almost indispensable utility. The bark of some of them, as the
hemlock and larch, is of great value in tanning, and from others are
obtained the various kinds of pitch, tar, turpentine, resin and
balsams,' The pines and firs have circles of branches in imperfect
whorls around the trunk, and, as one of these whorls is formed each
year, it is easy to calculate the age of young trees. In thick woods the
lower whorls of branches soon decay for want of light and air, and this
leaves a smooth trunk, which rises without a branch, like a beautiful
shaft, for a hundred feet or more.
"These trees are found everywhere except in the hot regions around the
equator. The white pine is the most common, but in the evergreen woods
of our own country it is mixed with pitch-pine and fir trees. In our
Southern States there are thin forests, called pine-barrens, through
which one can travel for miles on horseback. The white pine is easily
distinguished by its leaves being in fives, by its very long cones,
composed of loosely-arranged scales, and when young by the smoothness
and delicate light-green color of the bark. It is known throughout New
England by the name 'white pine,' which is given it on account of the
whiteness of the wood. In England it is called the Weymouth pine.
"Many very large trees are found in Maine, on the Penobscot River, but
most of the largest and most valuable timber trees have been cut down.
The lumberers, as they are called, are constantly hewing down the grand
old trees for timber, white pine being the principal timber of New
England and Canada."
"And they float it down the rivers on rafts, don't they?" said Malcolm.
"Won't you tell us about that, Miss Harson?"
"Yes," was the reply.--"But do not look so expectant, Edie; it is not a
story, dear, only a description of pine-cutting in the forests of Maine
and Canada. But I should like you to know how these great trees are
turned into timber, and you will see that, like many other necessary
things, it is neither easy nor pleasant. We do not get much without hard
work on the part of somebody: remember that. Now I will read:
"'The business of procuring trees suitable for masts of ships is
difficult and fatiguing. The pines which grew in the neighborhood of the
rivers and in the most accessible places have all been cut down. Paths
have now to be cleared with immense labor to the recesses of the forest,
in order to obtain a fresh supply. This arduous employment is called
"lumbering," and those who engage in it are "lumberers." The word
"lumber," in its general sense, applies to all kinds of timber. But
though many different trees, such as oak, ash and maple, are cut down,
yet the main business is with the pines. And when a suitable plot of
ground has been chosen for erecting a saw-mill,' to prepare the boards,
'it is called "pine-land," or a spot where the pine trees predominate.
"'A body of wood-cutters unite to form what is called a
"lumbering-party," and they are in the employ of a master-lumberman, who
pays them wages and finds them in provisions. The provisions are
obtained on credit and under promise of payment when the timber has been
cut down and sold. If the timber meets with any accident in its passage
down the river, the master-lumberman cannot make good the loss, and the
shopkeeper loses his money.
"'When the lumbering-party are ready to start, they take with them a
supply of necessaries, and also what tools they will require, and
proceed up the river to the heart of the forest. When they reach a
suitable spot where the giant trees which are to serve for masts grow
thick and dark, they get all their supplies on shore--their axes, their
cooking-utensils and the casks of molasses'--and too often of whisky or
rum, too, I am sorry to say--'that will be used lavishly. The molasses
is used instead of sugar to sweeten the great draughts of tea--made, not
from the product of China, but from the tops of the hemlock.
"'The first thing to be done is to build some kind of shelter, for they
must remain in the forest until spring, and the cold of those Northern
winters is terrible. Their cabin--for it cannot be called by any better
name--is built of logs of wood cut down on purpose and put together as
rudely as possible. It is only five feet high, and the roof is covered
with boards. There is a great blazing fire kept up day and night, for
the frost is intense, and the provisions have to be kept in a deep place
made in the ground under the cabin. The smoke of the fire goes out
through a hole in the roof, and the floor is strewn with branches of
fir, the only couch the poor hardworking lumberers have to rest upon.
When night comes, they turn into the cabin to sleep, and lie with their
feet to the fire. If a man chances to awaken, he instantly jumps up and
throws fresh logs on the fire; for it is of the utmost importance not to
let it go out. One of the men is the cook for the whole party, and his
duty is to have breakfast ready before it is light in the morning. He
prepares a meal of boiled meat and the hemlock tea sweetened with
molasses, and the rest of the party partake heartily of both, and in
some camps also of rum, under the mistaken notion that it helps them to
bear the severe toil. When breakfast is over, they divide into several
gangs. One gang cuts down the trees, another saws them in pieces, and
the third gang is occupied in conveying them, by means of oxen, to the
bank of the nearest stream, which is now frozen over.
"'It is a hard winter for the lumbermen. The snow covers the ground
until the middle of May, and the frost is often intense. But they toil
through it, felling, sawing and conveying until a quantity of trees have
been laid prostrate and made available for the market. Then, at last,
the weather changes; the snow begins to melt and the streams and rills
are set at liberty. The rivers flow briskly on and are much swollen with
the melting snow, and the men say that the freshets have come down.
"'Hard as their toil has been, the most difficult and fatiguing has yet
to be encountered. The timber is collected on the banks of the river,
and has now to be thrown into the water and made into rafts, so that it
can be floated down to the nearest market-town. The water, filled with
melting snow, is deadly cold and can scarcely be endured, but the men
are in it from morning till night constructing the rafts, which are put
together as simply as possible, and the smallest outlay made to suffice.
The rafts are of different sizes, according to the breadth of the
stream; and when all is ready, they are launched, and the convoy fairly
sets out on its voyage.
"'The great ugly masses of floating timber move slowly along under the
care of a pilot, and the lumberers ride upon the rafts, often without
shelter or protection from the weather. They guide themselves by long
and powerful poles fixed on pivots, and which act as rudders. As they
journey down the stream they sing and shout and make the utmost noise
and riot. If there comes a storm or a change of weather, the pilot
steers his convoy into some safe creek for the night, and secures it as
best he can.
"'Thus by degrees the raft reaches the place of destination,
occasionally with some loss and damage to the timber. In this case the
master-lumberer bears the loss, and is obliged to refund the expenses
incurred as best he can. At any rate, the men are now paid off, and set
out on foot for their homes.'"
Malcolm was particularly delighted with this narrative of stirring
activity, and even the little girls seemed very much interested in it.
They were so sorry for the poor lumbermen who had such dreary winters
off there in the Northern woods, and Clara wondered if they couldn't
have warm comforters and mittens.
"They probably have those things when they go into camp," said Miss
Harson, "but they are likely to find them in the way of working, and to
cast them aside.--Great ships are not built for nothing: even to get the
timber in readiness costs heavy labor, but, after all, no doubt, the men
get interested in it and enjoy its excitement. Fortunately for the many
uses to which its timber is put, the white pine grows very rapidly,
gaining from fifteen inches to three feet every year. In deep and damp
old woods it is slower of growth; it is then almost without sap-wood and
has a yellowish color like the flesh of the pumpkin. For this reason it
is called 'pumpkin-pine.' The bark of young trees of the white-pine
species is very smooth and of a reddish, bottle-green color. It is
covered in summer with a pearly gloss. On old trunks the bark is less
rough than that of any other pine. This tree has the spreading habit of
the cedar of Lebanon. In addition to its grand and picturesque
character, the white pine, says a lover of trees, may be 'regarded as a
true symbol of benevolence. Under its outspread roof numerous small
animals, nestling in the bed of dry leaves that cover the ground, find
shelter and repose. The squirrel feeds upon the kernels obtained from
its cones; the hare browses upon the trefoil'--clover--'and the spicy
foliage of the _hypericum_'--St. John's wort--'which are protected in
its shade; and the fawn reposes on its brown couch of leaves unmolested
by the outer tempest. From its green arbors the quails are often roused
in midwinter, where they feed upon the berries of the _Mitchella_ and
the spicy wintergreen. Nature, indeed, seems to have specially designed
this tree to protect her living creatures both in summer and
"Hurrah for the white pine," said Malcolm, with great energy, "the grand
old _American_ tree!"
"I'm glad that the little birds and animals have such a nice home under
it in winter," said Clara.
"I'm glad too," added Edith, "but I wish we could find some and see how
they look in their soft bed. Don't they ever put their heads out the
least bit, Miss Harson?"
"Not when they suspect that there is any one around, dear, and the
little creatures are very sharp to find this out. Our heavenly Father,
you know, takes thought for sparrows and all such helpless things, and
they are fed and cared for without any thought of their own.--The white
pine," she continued, "is truly a magnificent tree, but I think we shall
find that the pitch-pine is also very useful."
"That's the rough one," said Malcolm; "I remember how it looks, with
little tufts sticking out along the trunk."
"Yes," replied his governess, "and out authority says this tree is
distinguished by its leaves being in threes--the white pine, you know,
has them in _fives_--by the rigidity and sharpness of the scales of its
cones, by the roughness of its bark, and by the denseness of the brushes
of its stiff, crowded leaves. Its usual height is from forty to fifty