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Among the Trees at Elmridge by Ella Rodman Church

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feet, but it is sometimes much taller. The trunk is not only rough, but
very dark in color; and from this circumstance the species is frequently
called black pine. The wood is very hard and firm, and contains a
quantity of resin. This is much more abundant in the branches than in
the trunk, and the boards and other lumber of this wood are usually full
of pitch-knots."

"What are pitch-knots?" asked Clara.

"'When a growing branch,'" read Miss Harson, "'is broken off, the
remaining portion becomes charged with resin,' which is deposited by the
resin-bearing sap of the tree, 'forming what is called a pitch-knot,
extending sometimes to the heart. The same thing takes place through the
whole heart of a tree when, full of juice, its life is suddenly
destroyed.' 'Resin' is another name for turpentine, but is used of it
commonly when hardened into a solid form. The tar is obtained by slowly
burning splintered pine, both trunk and root, with a smothered flame,
and collecting the black liquid, which is expelled by the heat and
caught in cavities beneath the burning pile. Pitch is thickened tar, and
is used in calking ships and for like purposes."

"I am going to remember that," said Malcolm; "I could never make out
what all those different things meant."

"What are you thinking about so seriously, Clara?" asked her governess.
"If it is a puzzle, let me see if I cannot solve it for you."

"Well, Miss Harson, I was thinking of those brown leaves, or 'needles,'
in the pine-woods, and it seems strange to say that the leaves of
evergreens never fall off."

"It would not only be strange, dear, but quite untrue, to say that; for
the same leaves do not, of course, remain for ever on the tree. The
deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn and are entirely bare
until the next spring, but the evergreens, although they renew their
leaves, too, are never left without verdure of some sort. Late in
October you may see the yellow or brown foliage of the pines, then ready
to fall, surrounding the branches of the previous year's growth, forming
a whorl of brown fringe surmounted by a tuft of green leaves of the
present year's growth. Their leaves always turn yellow before the fall."



Great was the surprise of Edith when Miss Harson gave the little sleeper
a gentle shake and told her that it was time to be up. But the birds
without the window told the same story, and the little maiden was soon
at the breakfast-table and ready for the day's duties and enjoyments,
including their "tree-talk."

"Are there any more kinds of pine trees?" asked Malcolm.

[Illustration: "AWAKE, LITTLE ONE!"]

"Yes, indeed!--more than we can take up this summer," replied Miss
Harson. "There is the Norway pine, or red pine, which in Maine and New
Hampshire is often seen in forests of white and pitch pine. It has a
tall trunk of eighty feet or so, and a smooth reddish bark. The leaves
are in twos, six or eight inches long, and form large tufts or brushes
at the end of the branchlets. The wood is strong and resembles that of
the pitch-pine, but it contains no resin. The giant pines of California
belong to a different species from any that we have been considering,
and the genus, or order, in which they have been arranged is called
_Sequoia_[19]. They are generally known, however, as the 'Big Trees.' In
one grove there are a hundred and three of them, which cover a space of
fifty acres, called 'Mammoth-Tree Grove.' One of the giants has been
felled--a task which occupied twenty-two days. It was impossible to cut
it down, in the ordinary sense of the term, and the men had to bore into
it with augers until it was at last severed in twain. Even then the
amazing bulk of the tree prevented it from falling, and it still kept
its upright position. Two more days were employed in driving wedges into
the severed part on one side, thus to compel the giant to totter and
fall. The trunk was no less than three hundred and two feet in height
and ninety-six in circumference. The stump, which was left standing,
presented such a large surface that a party of thirty couples have
danced with ease upon it and still left abundant room for lookers-on."

[19] _Sequoia gigantea_.

When the children had sufficiently exclaimed over the size of this huge
tree, their governess continued:

"It is thought that these trees must have been growing for more than two
thousand years, which would make them probably two hundred years old at
the birth of our Saviour. Does it not seem wonderful to think of? There
are other groups of giant pines scattered on the mountains and in the
forests, and some youthful giants about five hundred years old."

"I suppose they are the babies of the family," said Clara; and this idea
amused Edith very much.

"There is still another kind of pine," said Miss Harson--"the Italian,
or stone, pine. It is shaped almost exactly like an umbrella with a very
long handle. The _Pinus pinea_ bears large cones, the seed of which is
not only eatable, but considered a delicious nut. The cone is three
years in ripening; it is then about four inches long and three wide, and
has a reddish hue. Each scale of which the cone is formed is hollow at
the base and contains a seed much larger than that of any other species.
When the cone is ripe, it is gathered by the owners of the forest; and
when thoroughly dried on the roof or thrown for a few minutes into the
fire, it separates into many compartments, from each of which drops a
smooth white nut in shape like the seed of the date. The shell is very
hard, and within it is the fruit, which is much used in making
sweetmeats. The stone-pine is found also in Palestine, and is supposed
to be the cypress of the Bible. The author of _The Ride Through
Palestine_[20] speaks of passing through a fine grove of the stone-pine,
'tall and umbrella-topped,' with dry sticks rising oddly here and there
from the very tops of the trees. These sticks were covered with
birdlime, to snare the poor bird which might be tempted to set foot on
such treacherous supports; and if the cones were ripe, they would be
quite sure to do it. Here is the picture, from the book just mentioned.
Italian pine is a prettier name than stone-pine, and this is the name by
which it is known to artists, who put it into almost every picture of
Italian scenery.

"'Much they admire that old religious tree
With shaft above the rest upshooting free,
And shaking, when its dark locks feel the wind,
Its wealthy fruit with rough and massive rind.'"

[20] Presbyterian Board of Publication.

[Illustration: STONE-PINE--"FIR" _(Pinus maritima_)].

"But how queer it sounds to call fruit _wealthy_!" said Malcolm.

"It is odd," replied his governess, "only because the word is not now
used in that sense; but the fruit is wealthy both because of its
abundance and because it can be put to so many uses. Let us see what is
said of it:

"'The kernels, or seeds, from the cones of the stone-pine have always
been esteemed as a delicacy. In the old days of Rome and Greece they
were preserved in honey, and some of the larders of the ill-fated city
of Pompeii were amply stored with jars of this agreeable conserve, which
were found intact after all those years. The kernels are also sugared
over and used as _bonbons_. They enter into many dishes of Italian
cookery, but great care has to be taken not to expose them to the air.
They are usually kept in the cones until they are wanted, and will then
retain their freshness for some years. The squirrels eagerly seek after
the fruit of this pine and almost subsist upon it. They take the cone in
their paws and dash out the seeds, thus scattering many of them and
helping to propagate the tree.

"'There is a bird called the crossbill that makes its nest in the pine.
It fixes its nest in place by means of the resin of the tree and coats
it with the same material, so as to render it impervious to the rain.
The seeds from the cones form its chief food, and it extracts them with
its curious bill, the two parts of which cross each other. It grasps the
cone with its foot, after the fashion of a parrot, and digs into it with
the upper part of its bill, which is like a hook, and forces out the
seed with a jerk.'"

[Illustration: PINE-CONE (_Pinus Sylvestris_.)]

The children enjoyed this account very much, and they thought that
stone-pine nuts--which they had never seen, and perhaps never would
see--must be the most delicious nuts that ever grew.

"What nice times the birds have," said Clara, "helping themselves to all
the good things that other people can't reach!"

"They are not exactly 'people,'" replied Miss Harson, laughing; "and, in
spite of all these 'nice times,' you would not be quite willing to
change with them, I think."

No, on the whole, Clara was quite sure that she would not.



There were some beautiful evergreens on the lawn at Elmridge, and,
although the foliage seemed dark in summer, it gave the place a very
cheerful look in winter, when other trees were quite bare, while the
birds flew in and out of them so constantly that spring seemed to have
come long before it really did arrive.

"This balsam-fir," said Miss Harson as they stood near a tall, beautiful
tree that tapered to a point, "has, you see, a straight, smooth trunk
and tapers regularly and rapidly to the top. You will notice, too, that
the leaves, which are needle-shaped and nearly flat, do not grow in
clusters, but singly, and that their color is peculiar. There are faint
white lines on the upper part and a silvery-blue tinge beneath, and
this silvery look is produced by many lines of small, shining resinous
dots. The deep-green bark, striped with gray, is full of balsam, or
resin, known as balm of Gilead or Canada balsam, and highly valued as a
cure for diseases of the lungs. The long cones are erect, or standing,
and grow thickly near the ends of the upper branches. They have round,
bluish-purple scales, and the soft color has a very pretty effect on the
tree. They ripen every year, and the lively little squirrel, as he is
called, feasts upon them, as the crossbill does on the cones of the
stone-pine. But the mischievous little animal also barks the boughs and
gnaws off the tops of the leading shoots, so that many trees are injured
and defaced by his depredations."


"He _is_ a lively little squirrel," observed Malcolm. "How he does race!
But he doesn't gnaw our trees, does he?"

"No, I think not, for he prefers staying in the woods and fields; but
fir-woods are his especial delight. Our balsam-fir is the American
sister of the silver fir of Europe, both having bluish-green foliage
with a silvery under surface, in a single row on either side of the
branches, which curve gracefully upward at the ends. The tree has a
peculiarly light, airy appearance until it is old, when there is little
foliage except at the ends of the branches. The silver fir is one of the
tallest trees on the continent of Europe, and it is remarkable for the
beauty of its form and foliage and the value of its timber."

"I know what this tree is," said Clara, turning to an evergreen of
stately form and graceful, drooping branches that almost touched the
ground: "it's Norway spruce. Papa told me this morning."

[Illustration: THE NORWAY PINE.]

"Yes," replied her governess, "and a beautiful tree it is, like the fir
in many respects, but the bark is rougher and the cones droop. The
branches, too, are lower and more sweeping. But the fir and the spruce
are more alike than many sisters and brothers. The Scotch fir, about
which there are many interesting things to be learned, is more
rugged-looking, and the Norway spruce, which will bear studying too, is
more grand and majestic."

[Illustration: THE HEMLOCK SPRUCE.]

"I know this one, Miss Harson," said little Edith as they came to a
sweeping hemlock near the bay-window of the dining-room.

"Yes, dear," was the reply; "Hemlock Lodge has made you feel very well
acquainted with the tree after which it is named. It is one of the most
beautiful of the evergreens, with its widely-spreading branches and
their delicate, fringe-like foliage; but, although the branches are
ornamental for church and house decoration, they are very perishable,
and drop their small needles almost immediately when placed in a heated
room. And now," continued the young lady, "we have come back to warm
piazza-days again, and can have our talk in the open air."

So on the piazza they speedily established themselves, with Miss Harson
in the low, comfortable chair and her audience on the crimson cushions
that had been piled up in a corner.

"We shall find a great deal about the fir tree," said Miss Harson, "as
it is very hardy and rugged, and as common in all Northern regions as
the white birch--quite as useful, too, as we shall soon see. This rugged
species--which is generally called the Scotch fir--is not so smooth and
handsome as our balsam-fir, but it is a tree which the people who live
near the great Northern forests of Europe could not easily do without.
It belongs to the great pine family and is often called a pine, but in
the countries of Great Britain especially it is called the Scotch fir.
Although well shaped, it is not a particularly elegant-looking tree. The
branches are generally gnarled and broken, and the style of the tree is
more sturdy than graceful. The Scotch fir often grows to the height of a
hundred feet, and the bark is of a reddish tinge. 'It is one of the most
useful of the tribe, and, like the bountiful palm, confers the greatest
blessing on the inhabitants of the country where it grows. It serves the
peasants of the bleak, barren parts of Sweden and Lapland for food:
their scanty supply of meal often runs short, and they go to the pine to
eke it out. They choose the oldest and least resinous of the branches
and take out the inner bark. They first grind it in a mill, and then mix
it with their store of meal; after this it is worked into dough and made
into cakes like pancakes. The bark-bread is a valuable addition to
their slender resources, and sometimes the young shoots are used as
well as the bark. Indeed, so largely is this store of food drawn upon
that many trees have been destroyed, and in some places the forest is
actually thinned."

"They're as bad as the squirrels," said Malcolm. "But how I should hate
to eat such stuff!"

"It may not be so very bad," replied his governess. "Some people think
that only white bread is fit to eat, but I think that Kitty's brown
bread is rather liked in this family."

The children all laughed, for didn't papa declare--with _such_ a sober
face!--that they were eating him out of house and home in brown bread
alone? Kitty, too, pretended to grumble because the plump loaves
disappeared so fast, but she said to herself at the same time, "Bless
their hearts! let 'em eat: it's better than a doctor's bill."

"A great many other things besides pancakes are made from the tree,"
continued Miss Harson, "and the fresh green tops furnish very
nice carpets."

There was a faint "_Oh!_" at this, but, after all, it was not so
surprising as the cakes had been.

"They are scattered on the floors of houses as rushes used to be in old
times in England, and thus they serve as carpet and prevent the mud and
dirt that stick to the shoes of the peasants from staining the floor;
and when trodden on, the leaves give out a most agreeable
aromatic perfume."

"I'd like that part," said Clara.

[Illustration: THE BLUE SPRUCE.]

"But you cannot have one part without taking it all; almost everything,
you see, has a pleasant side.--'The peasant finds no limit to the use
of the pine. Of its bark he makes the little canoe which is to carry him
along the river; it is simple in its construction, and as light as
possible. When he comes within safe distance of one of those gushing,
foaming cataracts that he meets with in his course, he pushes his canoe
to land and carries it on his shoulders until the danger is past; then
he launches it again, and paddles merrily onward. Not a single nail is
used in his canoe: the planks are tightly secured together by a natural
cordage made of the roots of the pine. He splits them of the right
thickness, and with very little preparation they form exactly the
material he needs.'"

Malcolm evidently had some idea of making a canoe of this kind, but he
became discouraged when his governess reminded him that he could not cut
down trees, and that his father would prefer having them left standing.
It did not seem necessary to speak of any difficulties in the way of
putting the boat together.

"Another use for the fir is to light up the poor hut of the peasant. 'He
splits up the branches into laths and makes them into torches. If he
wants a light, he takes one of the laths and kindles it at the fire;
then he fixes it in a rude frame, which serves him for a candlestick.
The light is very brilliant while it lasts, but is soon spent, and he
is in darkness again. The same use is made of the pine. It is no unusual
circumstance, in the Scotch pine-woods, to come upon a tree with the
trunk scooped out from each side and carried away: the cottager has been
to fetch material for his candles. But this somewhat rough usage does
not hurt the tree, and it continues green and healthy.' In our Southern
States pine-fat with resin is called lightwood, and is used for the
same purpose."

"That's an easy way of getting candles," said Clara.

"Easy, perhaps, compared with the trouble of moulding them," replied
Miss Harson, "but I do not think we should fancy either way of
preparing them."

"Is there anything to tell about the spruce tree?" asked Malcolm.

"It is too much like the fir," replied his governess, "to have any very
distinct character; but there are species here, known as the white and
black spruce, besides the hemlock."

But the children thought that hemlock was hemlock: how did it come to
be spruce?

"Because it has the family features--leaves solitary and very short;
cones pendulous, or hanging, with the scales thin at the edge; and the
fruit ripens in a single year. The hemlock-spruce, as it is sometimes
called, is, I think, the most beautiful of the family. 'It is
distinguished from all the other pines by the softness and delicacy of
its tufted foliage, from the spruce by its slender, tapering branchlets
and the smoothness of its limbs, and from the balsam-fir by its small
terminal cones, by the irregularity of its branches and the gracefulness
of its whole appearance.' The delicate green of the young trees forms a
rich mass of verdure, and at this season each twig has on the end a tuft
of new leaves yellowish-green in color and making a beautiful contrast
to the darker hue of last year's foliage. The bark of the trunk is
reddish, and that of the smooth branches and small twigs is light gray.
The branchlets are very small, light and slender, and are set
irregularly on the sides of the small branches; so that they form a
flat surface. This arrangement renders them singularly well adapted to
the making of brooms--a use of the hemlock familiar to housekeepers in
the country towns throughout New England. The leaves, which are
extremely delicate and of a silvery whiteness on the under side, are
arranged in a row on each side of the branchlets. The slender,
thread-like stems on which they grow make them move easily with the
slightest breath of wind, and this, with the silvery hue underneath,
gives to the foliage a glittering look that is very pretty. But I think
you all can tell me when the hemlock is prettiest?"

"After a snow-storm," said Clara. "Don't we all look, almost the first
thing, at the tree by the dining-room window?"

"Yes," replied Miss Harson; "it is a beautiful sight with the snow lying
on it in masses and the dark green of the leaves peeping through. 'The
branches put forth irregularly from all parts of the trunk, and lie one
above another, each bending over at its extremities upon the surface of
those below, like the feathers upon the wings of a bird,' And soft,
downy plumes they look, with the snow resting on them and making them
more feathery than ever."

"So they are like feathers?" said Malcolm, to whom this was a new idea,
"I'll look for 'em the next time it snows; yet--" He was going to add
that he wished it would snow to-morrow; but remembering that it was only
the beginning of June, and that Miss Harson had shown them how each
season has its pleasures, he stopped just in time.

"The pretty little cones of the hemlock, which grow very thickly on the
tree, have a crimson tinge at first, and turn to a light brown. They are
found hanging on the ends of the small branches, and they fall during
the autumn and winter. This tree is a native of the coldest parts of
North America, where it is found in whole forests, and it flourishes on
granite rocks on the sides of hills exposed to the most violent storms.
The wood is firm and contains very little resin; it is much used for
building-purposes. A great quantity of tannin is obtained from the
bark; and when mixed with that of the oak, it is valuable for
preparing leather.

"We have taken the prettiest of the spruces first," continued Miss
Harson, "and now we must see what are the differences between them. 'The
two species of American spruce, the black and the white--or, as they are
more commonly called, the double and the single--are distinguished from
the fir and the hemlock in every stage of growth by the roughness of the
bark on their branches, produced by little ridges running down from the
base of each leaf, and by the disposition of the leaves, which are
arranged in spirals equally on every side of the young shoots. The
double is distinguished from the single spruce by the darker color of
the foliage--whence its name of black spruce--by the greater thickness,
in proportion to the length, of the cones, and by the looseness of its
scales, which are jagged, or toothed, on the edge.' It is a
well-proportioned tree, but stiff-looking, and the dark foliage, which
never seems to change, gives it a gloomy aspect. The leaves are closely
arranged in spiral lines. The black spruce is never a very large tree,
but the wood is light, elastic and durable, and is valuable in
shipbuilding, for making ladders and for shingles. The young shoots are
much in demand for making spruce-beer. The white spruce is more slender
and tapering, and the bark and leaves are lighter. The root is very
tough, and the Canadian Indians make threads from the fibres, with which
they sew together the birch-bark for their canoes. The wood is as
valuable as that of the black spruce."

"Does the Norway spruce come from Norway?" asked Clara.

"Yes; that is its native land, where it presents its most grand and
beautiful appearance. There it 'rivals the palm in stature, and even
attains the height of one hundred and eighty feet. Its handsome branches
spread out on every side and clothe the trunk to its base, while the
summit of the tree ends in an arrow-like point. In very old trees the
branches droop at the extremities, and not only rest upon the ground,
but actually take root in it and grow. Thus a number of young trees are
often seen clustering around the trunk of an old one.'"

"Why, that's like the banyan tree," said Malcolm.

"Only there is a difference in the manner of growth, for the branches of
the banyan are some distance from the ground and send forth rootlets
without touching it. The Norway spruce is also the great tree of the
Alps, where it seems to match the majestic scenery. The timber is
valuable for building; and when sawed into planks, it is called white
deal, while that of the Scotch fir is red deal.

"And now," said Miss Harson, "before we leave the firs, let us see what
is said about them in the Bible. They were used for shipbuilding in the
city of Tyre; for the prophet Ezekiel says, 'They have made all thy ship
boards of fir trees of Senir[21],' and it is written that 'David and all
the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments
made of firwood[22].' The same wood was used then in building houses,
as you will find, Malcolm, by turning to the Song of Solomon, seventh
chapter, seventeenth verse."

[21] Ezek. xxvii. 5.

[22] 2 Sam. vi. 5.

"'The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir,'" read

"In Kings it is said, 'So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees,
according to his desire[23],' and these trees were to be used for the
very house, or palace, of which the Jewish king speaks in his Song.
Evergreens are often mentioned in the Bible, and in that beautiful
Christmas chapter, the sixtieth of Isaiah, you will find the fir tree
again.--Read the thirteenth verse, Clara."

[23] I Kings v. 10.

"'The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine
tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I
will make the place of my feet glorious.'--What is 'the glory of
Lebanon,' Miss Harson?"

"The cedar of Lebanon, dear; and we will now turn our attention to that
and the other cedars."



"The cypress tribe," said Miss Harson, "differ from the pines, or
Coniferae, by not having their fruit in a true cone, but in a roundish
head which consists of a small number of scales, sometimes forming a
sort of berry. One of the most common of this family is the arbor vitae,
or tree of life--a tree so small as to look like a pointed shrub, and
more used for fences than for ornament. An arbor-vitae hedge, you know,
divides our flower garden from the kitchen-garden and goes all the way
down to the brook."

"I like the smell of it," said Clara. "Don't you, Miss Harson?"


"Yes," was the reply, "there is something very fresh and pleasant about
it; and when well kept, as John is sure to keep ours, it makes a
beautiful hedge. As a tree it has been known to reach forty or fifty
feet in height, with a trunk ten feet in circumference. The leaves are
arranged in four rows, in alternately opposite pairs, and seem to make
up the fan-like branchlets. These branchlets look like parts of a large
compound, flat leaf. The bark is slightly furrowed, smooth to the touch,
and very white when the tree stands exposed. The wood is reddish,
somewhat odorous, very light, soft and fine-grained. In the northern
part of the United States and in Canada it holds the first place for

"I thought the cypress was a flower," said Malcolm.

"So one kind of cypress is," replied his governess--"the blossom of an
airy-looking and beautiful creeper; but the name also belongs to a
family of trees. The white cedar, or cypress, is a very graceful tree
which generally grows in swamps. 'It is entirely free from the stiffness
of the pines, and to the spiry top of the poplar it unites the airy
lightness of the hemlock. The trunk is straight and tall, tapering very
gradually, and toward the top there are short irregular branches,
forming a small but beautiful head, above which the leading shoot waves
like a slender plume.' The leaves are very small and scale-like, with
sharp points, and grow in four rows on the ends of the branchlets,
giving them the appearance of large compound leaves. The wood is very
durable, and is used for many building-purposes. It is generally of a
faint rose-color, and always keeps its aromatic odor."

[Illustration: IRISH JUNIPER.]

"Is that what our cedar-chests are made of to keep the moths from our
winter clothes?" asked Clara.

"Yes," replied Miss Harson, "but the name 'cedar' is; not correct,
though it is one commonly given to this tree. The wood of the European
cypress is also used for many purposes where strength and durability are
required, for it really seems never to wear out. This tree is described
as tapering and cone-like, with upright branches growing close to the
trunk, and in its general appearance a little resembling a poplar. Its
frond-like branches are closely covered with very small sharp-pointed
leaves of a yellow-green color, smooth and shining, and they remain on
the tree five or six years. The cypress is often seen in burying-grounds
in Europe, and in Turkey it often stands at each end of a grave. The
oldest tree in Europe is thought to be an Italian cypress said to have
been planted in the year of our Saviour's birth; it is an object of
great reverence in the neighborhood. This ancient tree is a hundred and
twenty feet high and twenty-three feet around the trunk.

"The juniper--or red cedar, as it is improperly called--is not a
handsome tree, but it is a very useful one. It has a scraggy, stunted
look, and the foliage is apt to be rusty; but it will grow in rocky,
sandy places where no other tree would even try to hold up its head, and
the wood, when made into timber, lasts for a great many years. Posts for
fences are made of the juniper or red cedar, and the shipbuilder,
boatbuilder, carpenter, cabinet-maker and turner are all steady
customers for it. The 'cedar-apples' found on this tree are one phase
of the life of a very curious fungus. They are covered with a
reddish-brown bark; and when fresh, they are tough and fleshy, somewhat
like an unripe apple. When dry they become of a woody nature."

"They pucker up your mouth awfully," said Malcolm, who had made several
attempts to eat them; but, do what he would, he could not even "make
believe" they were nice.

"I have no doubt of it," was the reply, "remembering the dreadful faces
I have seen on some of our rambles. But the birds like them, as they do
everything of the kind that is not poisonous."

* * * * *

"Isn't it beautiful?" exclaimed the children, in delight. They were
admiring a magnificent cedar of Lebanon in one of the pictures which
Miss Harson had collected for their benefit, and it seemed no wonder
that the grand spreading tree should be called "the glory of Lebanon."

"It is indeed beautiful," replied their governess; "and think of seeing
a whole mountain covered with such trees! A traveler speaks of them as
the most solemnly impressive trees in the world, and says that their
massive trunks, clothed with a scaly texture almost like the skin of
living animals and contorted with all the irregularities of age, may
well have suggested those ideas of royal, almost divine, strength and
solidity which the sacred writers ascribe to them.--Turn to the
ninety-second psalm, Clara, and read the twelfth verse."

"'The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a
cedar in Lebanon.'"

"In the thirty-first chapter of Ezekiel," continued Miss Harson, "it is
written, 'Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair
branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his
top was among the thick boughs. The waters made him great, the deep set
him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent
out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field. Therefore his
height was exalted above all the trees of the field and his boughs were
multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of
waters, when he shot forth. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in
his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring
forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.'"

[Illustration: CEDAR OF LEBANON.]

"Are the leaves like those of our cedar trees?" asked Malcolm, who was
studying the picture quite intently. "The tree doesn't look like 'em."

"They are somewhat like them," replied his governess, "being slender and
straight and about an inch long. They grow in tufts, and in the centre
of some of the tufts there is a small cone which is very pretty and
often brought to this country by travelers for their friends at home. In
_The Land and the Book_ there is a picture of small branches with cones,
and the author says of the cedar: 'There is a striking peculiarity in
the shape of this tree which I have not seen any notice of in books of
travel. The branches are thrown out horizontally from the parent trunk.
These again part into limbs, which preserve the same horizontal
direction, and so on down to the minutest twigs; and even the
arrangement of the clustered leaves has the same general tendency. Climb
into one, and you are delighted with a succession of verdant floors
spread around the trunk and gradually narrowing as you ascend. The
beautiful cones seem to stand upon or rise out of this green flooring.'
The same writer says that by examining the different growths of wood
inside the trunk of one of the trees these ancient cedars of Lebanon
have been proved to be three thousand five hundred years old."

"Oh, Miss Harson!" exclaimed her audience; "could any tree be as old as

"It is possible. The circle of growing wood which is made each year is a
pretty good method of telling the age of a tree, and these cedars of
Lebanon are considered the oldest trees in the world. Travelers have
always spoken of the beauty and symmetry of these trees, with their
widespreading branches and cone-like tops. All through the Middle Ages a
visit to the cedars of Lebanon was regarded by many persons in the light
of a pilgrimage. Some of the trees were thought to have been planted by
King Solomon himself, and were looked upon as sacred relics. Indeed, the
visitors took away so many pieces from the bark that it was feared the
trees would be destroyed. The cedars stand in a valley a considerable
way up the mountain, where the snow renders it inaccessible for part of
the year."

"Are the trees just in one particular place, then?" asked Malcolm. "I
thought they grew all over that country?"

"The principal and best-known grove of very large and ancient cedars of
Lebanon is found in one place," replied his governess, "but there are
other groves now known to exist. The famous grove was fast disappearing,
until there were but few of them left. The pilgrims who went to visit
them in such numbers in olden times were accompanied by monks from a
monastery about four miles below, who would beseech them not to injure a
single leaf. But the greatest care could not preserve the trees. Some of
them have been struck down by lightning, some broken by enormous loads
of snow, and others torn to fragments by tempests. Some have even been
cut down with axes like any common tree. But better care is now taken of
them; so that we may hope that the grove will live and increase."

"But why weren't they saved," asked Clara, "when people thought so much
of them?"

"It seems to be a part of the general desolation of the land of God's
chosen but rebellious people. In the third chapter of the prophet
Isaiah, verses eleven and twelve, it is said, 'For the day of the Lord
of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every
one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low; and upon all the
cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of
Bashan.' The same prophet says, in the tenth chapter and nineteenth
verse, 'And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a
child may write them.' These words have been particularly applied to the
stately cedars of Lebanon, for 'the once magnificent grove is but a
speck on the mountain-side. Many persons have taken it in the distance
for a wood of fir trees, but on approaching nearer and taking a closer
view the cedars resume somewhat of their ancient majesty. The space they
cover is not more than half a mile, but, once amidst them, the beautiful
fan-like branches overhead, the exquisite green of the younger trees and
the colossal size of the older ones fill the mind with interest and
admiration. Within the grove all is hushed as in a land of the past.
Where once the Tyrian workman plied his axe and the sound of many
voices came upon the ear, there are now the silence and solitude of
desertion and decay.'--Malcolm," added his governess, "you may read us
what is written in the sixth verse of the fourteenth chapter of Hosea."

"'His branches,'" read Malcolm, "'shall spread, and his beauty shall be
as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.' What does that mean,
Miss Harson?"

"It means the fragrant resin which exudes from both the trunk and the
cones of the beautiful cedar. It is soft, and its fragrance is like that
of the balsam of Mecca. 'Everything about this tree has a strong
balsamic odor, and hence the whole grove is so pleasant and fragrant
that it is delightful to walk in it. The wood is peculiarly adapted for
building, because it is not subject to decay, nor is it eaten of worms.
It was much used for rafters and for boards with which to cover houses
and form the floors and ceilings of rooms. It was of a red color,
beautiful, solid and free from knots. The palace of Persepolis, the
temple of Jerusalem and Solomon's palace were all in this way built with
cedar, and the house of the forest of Lebanon was perhaps so called from
the quantity of this wood used in its construction.' We are told in
First Kings that Solomon 'built also the house of the forest of
Lebanon[24],' and that 'he made three hundred shields of beaten gold'
and 'put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon[25].' All the
drinking-vessels, too, of this wonderful palace, which is always spoken
of as 'the house of the forest of Lebanon,' were of pure gold, and its
magnificence shows how highly the beautiful cedar-wood was valued."

[24] I Kings vii. 2.

[25] I Kings x. 17.



"There is a wonderful evergreen," said Miss Harson, "which grows in
tropical countries, and also in some sub-tropical countries, such as the
Holy Land, and is said to have nearly as many uses as there are days in
a year. You must tell me what it is when you have seen the picture."

[Illustration: PALM TREE.]

Malcolm and Clara both pronounced it a palm tree, and Clara asked if
there were any such trees growing in this country.

"Some of its relations are found on our Southern seacoast," replied
their governess; "South Carolina, you know, is called 'the Palmetto
State.' There is a member of the family called the cabbage-palmetto,
the unexpanded leaves of which are used as a table vegetable, which you
may see in Florida. Its young leaves are all in a mass at the top, and
when boiled make a dish something like cabbage. The leaves of the
palmetto are also used, when perfect, in the manufacture of hats,
baskets and mats, and for many other purposes. But its stately and
majestic cousin, the date-palm of the East, with its tall, slender stalk
and magnificent crown of feathery leaves, has had its praises sung in
every age and clime. 'Besides its great importance as a fruit-producer,
it has a special beauty of its own when the clusters of dates are
hanging in golden ripeness under its coronal of dark-green leaves. Its
well-known fruit affords sustenance to the dwellers on the borders of
the great African desert; it is as necessary to them as is the camel,
and in many cases they may be said to owe their existence to it alone.
The tree rears its column-like stem to the height of ninety feet, and
its crown consists of fifty leaves about twelve feet in length and
fringed at the edges like a feather. Between the leaf and the stem there
issue several horny spathes, or sheaths, out of which spring clusters of
panicles that bear small white flowers,' These flowers are followed by
the dates, which grow in a dense bunch that hangs down several feet."

"But how do people manage to climb such a tree as that," asked Malcolm,
"to get the dates? It goes straight up in the air without any branches,
and looks as if it would snap in two if any one tried it."

"It does not snap, though, for it is very strong; and the climbing is
easier than you imagine, even when the tree is a hundred feet high, as
it sometimes is. The trunk, you see, is full of rugged knots. These
projections are the remains of decayed leaves which have dropped off
when their work was done. As the older leaves decay the stalk advances
in height. It has not true wood, like most trees, but the stem has
bundles of fibres that are closely pressed together on the outer part.
Toward the root these are so entwined that they become as hard as iron
and are very difficult to cut. The tree grows very slowly, but it lives
for centuries. I have a Persian fable in rhyme for you, called


"'"How old art thou?" said the garrulous gourd
As o'er the palm tree's crest it poured
Its spreading leaves and tendrils fine,
And hung a-bloom in the morning shine.
"A hundred years," the palm tree sighed.--
"And I," the saucy gourd replied,
"Am at the most a hundred hours,
And overtop thee in the bowers."

"'Through all the palm tree's leaves there went
A tremor as of self-content.
"I live my life," it whispering said,
"See what I see, and count the dead;
And every year of all I've known
A gourd above my head has grown
And made a boast like thine to-day,
Yet here I stand; but where are they?"'"

The children were very much pleased with the fable, and they began to
feel quite an affection for the venerable and useful palm tree.

"The date tree," continued their governess, "as this species of palm is
often called, blossoms in April, and the fruit ripens in October. Each
tree produces from ten to twelve bunches, and the usual weight of a
bunch is about fifteen pounds. It is esteemed a crime to fell a date
tree or to supply an axe intended for that purpose, even though the tree
may belong to an enemy. The date-harvest is expected with as much
anxiety by the Arab in the oasis as the gathering in of the wheat and
corn in temperate regions. If it were to fail, the Arabs would be in
danger of famine. The blessings of the date-palm are without limit to
the Arab. Its leaves give a refreshing shade in a region where the beams
of the sun are almost insupportable; men, and also camels, feed upon the
fruit; the wood of the tree is used for fuel and for building the native
huts; and ropes, mats, baskets, beds, and all kinds of articles, are
manufactured from the fibres of the leaves. The Arab cannot imagine how
a nation can exist without date-palms, and he may well regard it as the
greatest injury that he can inflict upon his enemy to cut down
his trees."

"Miss Harson," asked Edith, very earnestly, "isn't the palm tree in the

[Illustration: DATE-PALM AT JERICHO.]

"It certainly is, dear," replied her governess, "and it is one of the
trees most frequently mentioned. In Deuteronomy, thirty-fourth chapter,
third verse, Jericho is called the 'city of palm trees.' Travelers still
speak of these trees as yet growing in Palestine, but they are not
nearly so abundant as they once were; near Jericho only one or two can
be found. There are many allusions to the palm in the Scriptures. King
David, in the ninety-second psalm, says that the righteous shall
flourish like the palm tree: 'Those that be planted in the house of the
Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth
fruit in old age.' The palm is always upright, in spite of rain or wind.
'There it stands, looking calmly down upon the world below, and
patiently yielding its large clusters of golden fruit from generation to
generation. It brings forth fruit in old age.' The allusion to being
planted in the house of the Lord is probably drawn from the custom of
planting beautiful and long-lived trees in the courts of temples and
palaces. Solomon covered all the walls of the holy of holies round
about with golden palm trees.--You will find this, Clara, in
First Kings."

Clara read:

"'And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved
figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, within and

[26] I Kings vi. 29.

"In the thirty-second verse," continued Miss Harson, "it is written that
he overlaid them with gold, 'and spread gold upon the cherubim, and upon
the palm trees.' 'They were thus planted, as it were, within the very
house of the Lord; and their presence there was not only ornamental, but
appropriate and highly suggestive--the very best emblem not only of
patience in well-doing, but of the rewards of the righteous, a fat and
flourishing old age, a peaceful end, a glorious immortality.'"

"What does a 'palmer' mean, Miss Harson?" asked Malcolm. "Is it a man
who has palm trees or who sells dates? I saw the word in a book I was
reading, but I couldn't understand what it meant."

"In olden times," replied his governess, "when people made so many
pilgrimages, some of the pilgrims went to the Holy Land and some to Rome
and other places; but those who went to Palestine were thought to be the
most devout, both because it was so much farther off and because there
were so many sacred spots to visit there. These pilgrims always brought
home with them branches of palm, to show that they had really been to
the land where the tree grew; and so they were called _palmers_. To say
that such-a-one was a palmer was far more than to say that he was
a pilgrim."

"Miss Harson," said Clara, holding up one of the books, "here is a
picture called 'the cocoanut-palm,' but I didn't know that cocoanuts
grew on palm trees. Will you tell us something about it?"


"Certainly I will, dear," was the reply. "I fully intended to do so, for
the cocoanut-palm is too valuable a member of the family to be passed
over. This species does not grow in Palestine, and it is not one of the
trees of the Bible; its home is in the warmest countries, and it grows
most luxuriantly in the islands of the tropics or near the seacoast on
the main-lands. Although its general form is similar to that of the
date-palm, the foliage and fruit are quite different. The leaves are
very much broader, and they have not the light, airy look of the foliage
of the date-palm. But 'the cocoanut-palm is the most valuable of
Nature's gifts to the inhabitants of those parts of the tropics where it
grows, and its hundred uses, as they are not inaptly called, extend
beyond the tropics over the civilized world. The beautiful islands of
the southern seas are fringed with cocoanut-palms that encircle them as
with a green and feathery belt. The ripe nuts drop into the sea, but,
protected by their husks, they float away until the tide washes them on
to the shore of some neighboring island, where they can take root
and grow.'"

"Wouldn't it be nice," said Edith, "if some would float here?"

"A great many cocoanuts float here in ships," replied Miss Harson, "but
they would not take root and grow, because the climate is not suited to
them; it is too cold for them. We cannot have tropical fruit without
tropical heat, and I am sure that none of us would want such a change as
that. You may sometimes see small cocoanut trees in hothouses or
horticultural gardens, where they are shielded from our cold air. The
island of Ceylon, in the East Indies, is full of cocoanut-palm trees,
for they are carefully cultivated by the inhabitants, and the feathery
groves stretch mile after mile. The tree shoots up a column-like stem to
the height of a hundred feet, and is crowned with a tuft of broad leaves
about twelve feet long. The flowers are yellowish white and grow in
clusters, and the seed ripens into a hard nut which in its fibrous husk
is about the size of an infant's head."

"I've seen the nut in its husk," said Malcolm, "when papa took me down
to the wharf where the ships come in. There were lots of cocoanuts, and
some of 'em had their coats on."

"This brown husk," continued his governess, "is a valuable part of the
nut, for the toughest ropes and cables are made of its fibres, as well
as the useful brown matting so generally used to cover offices and
passages. Brushes, nets and other domestic articles are also
manufactured from the husk. Scarcely any other tree in the world is so
useful to man or contributes so much to his comfort as the
cocoanut-palm. Food and drink are alike obtained from it. The kernel of
the nut is an article of diet, and can be prepared in many ways. The
native is almost sustained by it, and in Ceylon it forms a part of
nearly every dish. The spathe that encloses the yet-unopened flowers is
made to yield a favorite beverage called palm-wine, or, more familiarly,
'toddy.' When the fresh juice is used, it is an innocent and refreshing
drink; but when left to ferment, it intoxicates, and is the one evil
result from the bountiful gifts of the tree. Oil is prepared in great
quantities from the nuts and used for various purposes."

"Are there any more kinds of palm trees?" asked the children.

"Yes," was the reply; "there are a great many members of this most
useful family, but the one that will interest you most, after the
date-and cocoanut-palm, is, I think, the sago-palm."

[Illustration: YOUNG COCOANUT TREE IN POT (_Cocos nucifera_).]

"Why, Miss Harson!" exclaimed Clara, in surprise; "does sago really grow
on a tree?"

"It really grows _in_ a tree--for it is a kind of starch secreted by the
tree for the use of its flowers and fruit--and in order to obtain it the
tree has to be cut down. The pith is then taken out and cut in slices,
soaked in water and roasted; and when it assumes the shape of the small
globules in which we see it, it is ready for exportation."

"Well!" said Malcolm; "I never knew _that_ before. We've learned ever so
many things, Miss Harson."

"There is one thing about the palm," said Miss Harson, "which I have
purposely left for the last--especially as it is the last also of our
trees for the present--and that is the sacred associations which its
branches have for both Jews and Christians. The Jews were commanded on
the first day of the feast of tabernacles to 'take the boughs of goodly
trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and
willows of the brook, to rejoice before the Lord their God.' The palm
was a symbol of victory, and branches of it were strewn in the path of
conquerors, more especially of those who had fought for religious truth.
It is the emblem of the martyr, as a conqueror through Christ. The
Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday because in the ancient
churches leaves of palm were carried that day by worshipers in memory of
those strewn in the way on the triumphal entry of the King of Zion into
Jerusalem. You will find it, Malcolm, in John."

Malcolm read very reverently:

"'On the next day, much people that were come to the feast, when they
heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees,
and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna; Blessed is the King of
Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord[27].'"

[27] John xii. 12, 13.

"Here," said Miss Harson, "is a little hymn written on these very

"'See a small procession slowly
Toward the temple wind its way;
In the midst rides, meek and lowly,
One whom angel-hosts obey.

"'How the shouting crowd adore him,
Now, for once, they know their King;
Some their garments cast before him,
Green palm-branches others bring.

"'Calmly, yet with holy sorrow,
Christ permits the sacrifice.
Knowing well that on the morrow
Changed will be those fickle cries.

* * * * *

"'Children, when in prayers and praises
Loudly we with lips adore,
While the heart no anthem raises,
Are not we like those of yore?

"'O Lord Jesus, let us never
Lift the voice in heartless songs;
Help us to remember ever
All that to thy name belongs.'"

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