« AnkstesnisTęsti »
The trees of the hills and rocky pas- were not borne on a snow-white stem. tures have a different character from Your young birch has all the daring of a their fatly nourished brothers of the plain, débutante. Later, when the summer and, as among men, they are often less thunder-storms come, the birch has anbeautiful and more interesting. The red other trick up its sleeve. Some aftercedar, which starts life as a tiny seedling noon a dark, gun-metal thunder-head will in the sediment of a rain pool on top of mass behind the crest of a hill, and suda boulder, and survives by sending its denly an old birch on the summit will roots down around the very rock till it leap into startling prominence, so that it seems, in the course of a century, to clasp focuses the entire attention, like a single the rock with crooked hands, as an eagle splendid streak of chalk-white lightning. might hold a ball in its claws, usually de- Again, in midwinter, when the birch by velops a rough sturdiness of trunk and rights should be protectively colored and very often a twisted formation of growth inconspicuous, it is the other trees we do which suggest almost human qualities of not notice, and the birch which rises by aggressiveness and tenacity. Such a tree the edge of the frozen stream, perhaps, or seems actually to have wrestled with its against the dark wall of the pines, and environment, and put its enemies under- displays all its snowy limbs to best advanfoot. It is to the upland hard woods, too, tage against evergreen or sky. that all boys know they must go for nuts. Only the sycamore has a bark which Did not the finest chestnuts always grow can rival the birch for showy effect; yet on a hill? And what man is so poor in how different are the two trees! It has memories that he cannot recall those never occurred to anyone to call the golden October mornings when there was sycamore a feminine tree.
It is large, frost in the air, and the pungent smell of dignified, masculine, and totally unaware dried sweet-fern, and up among the boul- of the picturesque effect created by its torders the gray hickories, still flaunting a tuous branches and its great mottled few yellow leaves, had shed their store? patches of grayish-white bark alternating The nut-tree has a certain rough, scrag- with brown. When all is said, the birch gly quality, a clean, hard, wiry, knotted is a vain tree; but we must also admit it character, that exactly comports with has a right to be, and we cannot scold it, boulder-strewn pastures, a keen October either, it wears its white betimes with sky, and the autumn wind piping over the such an air of virgin innocence. hilltops.
Many years ago a lover of trees in the The canoe birch, too, is essentially an village where my boyhood was passed preupland tree; it does not thrive near sea- pared a little booklet describing and piclevel, at any rate in Massachusetts. Far- turing a score or so of the finest trees in ther north it creeps down nearer the coast. the township. Only the other day I came The birch, above all our American trees, across a copy after the lapse of more than delights in theatrical effects. And if that two decades. I sat down to its pages as sentence is objected to on the ground of to a feast. Yes, there was the old Cap'n "pathetic fallacy,” we will commit the George Bacheldor sassafras, the largest whole sin at once, and add that it is the in the State, sixty-two feet high! How most feminine of trees. In earliest spring, familiar it looked! How my tongue could when the hepaticas are pushing up last taste again the aroma of the chips hacked year's leaves, and our Berkshire moun- with a jack-knife from its roots! And tain-sides are donning their frail, delicate here, on the next page, was the Deacon veils of color, the young birches are con- Emerson oak, growing between the barn spicuous for the startling brightness of and the house, and throwing mottled their new foliage, a green so much lighter shadows over both, a mighty spread, inand more vivid than all the other greens deed. I could hear the horses stamping that it would arrest attention even if it in the barn, I could smell the hay, I could savor again the coolness of the shade as closed the pamphlet. “Then there is no we dropped beneath it on our way home such thing as the influence of line and from the swimming-hole. That oak and contour on the mind, and no such thing as the old Emerson homestead were unthink- affection for the inanimate, which is nonable apart. If I, who merely had lived
sense." a mile or more down the road, could so But one tree this pamphlet did not picthrill to a picture of that tree in after ture. It was a great chestnut, fully five years, what, I reflected, must be the affec- feet through, storm-torn and lightningtion in which an Emerson holds it? Is it scarred, which stood high upon a windy still there? Surely it must be, for the summit, the shepherd of a hundred hills. oak o’tlives our little spans, and that any They were little hills, green and rolling, one could lay an ax to it is inconceivable. and from the first great limb of the chest
So I lingered through the book, greet- nut, a limb as big as a barrel, they looked ing each picture as I would greet the like- like a patchwork quilt stitched with stone ness of a boyhood friend, each bringing walls. Over them the cattle browsed, or back to me not only its own image, but the reapers clicked their midsummer lowhat a wealth beside of associated memo- cust song, or just the breeze passed whisries! Surely every man holds certain pering. And four feet dangled from the trees thus warmly in his affection- trees great limb of the chestnut, and four eyes he planted, or his father or his grand- looked out across the little hills to a far father planted, trees which gave him shade pond and the misty horizon, and two and shelter, trees which were an integral hearts sang a song as old as the hills thempart of his home, trees which had som selves. When the sun declined, the shadow grace of limb or charm of character which of the great tree swept out eastward, the forever endeared them to him through the cattle filed down to the bars and lowed, subtle channels of esthetic satisfaction. the leader shaking her bell protestingly, "Trees have no personality?" I said, as I one pair of arms must needs be raised to