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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 any one 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
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 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
assist the more encumbered climber down their shepherd ? I shall never know; I to the top of our ladder, which was a huge shall never count again the little notches piece of broken limb propped against the in a secret recess of the bark, or hear the trunk, and then again be raised from the sweet, silly secrets the old tree would not ground to swing a burden all too light to betray. I could go there now, very earth. Then there must follow a little spot, yes, on the darkest night; a memory ceremony-the cutting of a tiny notch in in the soles of my feet would wake and a deep and secret recess of the bark to tell me the path. But I shall never take signify one more day of happiness spent in the risk. Some memories must never be that protecting shelter, and sometimes a dusted, some paths never retrod. For me warm pink cheek was laid against the fur- that storm-scarred grandfather of a tree rowed trunk, and a voice whispered, “Nice shall forever stand shepherd over the little old Grandpa Chestnut!"
hills, the little, green rolling hills where That was many years ago. I wonder if the cattle browse and the wind whispers that noble old tree is standing yet, or to the mullen-stalks, and against its hoary whether the chestnut blight, the ax, or the bark a soft pink cheek is pressed, and I lightning has robbed the little hills of am twenty-one again.
The boy soldier is willing to make any day his last day if it is a good day. It is not so with the middle-aged man. He is puzzled by the war. What he has to struggle with more than bodily weakness is the malady of thought. Is the bloody business worth while ?
SAW him first, my middle-aged man,
one afternoon on the boards of an improvised stage in the sand dunes of Belgium. On that last thin strip of the shattered kingdom English and French and Belgians were grimly massed. He was a Frenchman, and he was cheering up his comrades. With shining black hair and volatile face, he played many parts that day. He recited sprightly verses of Parisian life. He carried on amazing twenty-minute dialogues with himself, mimicking the voice of girl and woman, bully and dandy.
His audience had come in stale from the everlasting spading and
marching. They brightened visibly under his gaiety. If he cared to make that effort in the saddened place, they were ready to respond. When he dismissed them, the last flash of him was of a smiling, rollicking improvisator, bowing himself over to the applause till his black hair was level with our eyes.
And then next day as I sat in my ambulance, waiting orders, he trudged by in his blue, "the color of heaven” once, but musty now from nights under the rain. His head of hair, which the glossy black wig had covered, was gray-white. The sparkling, pantomimic face had dropped
into wrinkles. He was patient and old detail duties of small honor that the
army and tired. Perhaps he, too, would have may prosper. When has it happened bebeen glad of some one to cheer him up. fore that the older generation holds up He was just one more territorial-- trench- the hands of the young? At the western digger and sentry and filler-in. He be- front they stand fast that the youth may came for me the type of all those faithful, go forward. They fill in the shell-holes plodding soldiers whose first strength is to make a straight path for less-tired feet. spent. In him was gathered up all that They drive up food to give good heart to fatigue and sadness of men for whom no boys. glamour remains.
War is easy for the young. The boy They went past me every day, hun- soldier is willing to make any day his last dreds of them, padding down the Nieu- if it is a good day. It is not so with the port road, their feet tired from service and middle-aged man. He is puzzled by the their boots road-worn-crowds of men be- war. What he has to struggle with more yond numbering, as far as one could see than bodily weakness is the malady of into the dry, volleying dust and beyond the thought. Is the bloody business worth dust; men coming toward me, a nation of while? Is there any far-off divine event them. They came at a long, uneven jog, a which his death will hasten? The wines cluttered walk. Every figure was sprin- of France are good wines, and his home in kled and encircled by dust - dust on their fertile Normandy was pleasant. gray temples, and on their wet, streaming As we stood in the street in the sun one faces, dust coming up in puffs from their hot afternoon, four men came carrying a shuffling feet, too tired to lift clear of the wounded man. The stretcher was growheavy road-bed. There was a hot, pitilessing red under its burden. The man's face sun, and every man of them was shrouded was greenish white, with a stubble of beard. in the long, heavy winter coat, as soggy as
The flesh of his body was as white as snow a horse blanket, and with thick leather from loss of blood. It was torn at the gaiters, loose, flapping, swathing their legs chest and sides. They carried him to the as if with bandages. On the man's back dressing-station, and half an hour later was a pack, with the huge swell of the lifted him into our car. We carried him in blanket rising up beyond the neck and for two miles. Four flies fed on the red rim generating heat-waves; a loaf of tough of his closed left eye. He lay silent, moblack bread fastened upon the knapsack or tionless. Only a slight flutter of the covtied inside a faded red handkerchief; and erlet, made by his breathing, gave a sign a dingy, scarred tin Billy-can. At his of life. At the Red Cross post we shapeless, rolling waist his belt hung stopped. The coverlet still slightly rose heavy with a bayonet in its casing. On and fell. The doctor, brown-bearded, in the shoulder rested a dirt-caked spade, white linen, stepped into the car, tapped with a clanking of metal where the bayo- the man's wrist, tested his pulse, put a net and the Billy-can struck the handle of hand over his heart. Then the doctor the spade. Under a peaked cap showed muttered, drew the coverlet over the the bearded face and the white of strained greenish-white face, and ordered the maeyes gleaming through dust and sweat. rines to remove him. In the moment of The man was too tired to smile and talk. arrival the wounded man had died. The weight of the pack, the weight of the In the courtyard next our post two men clothes, the dust, the smiting sun-all were carrying in long strips of wood. weighted down the man, leaving every This wood was for coffins, and one of line in his body sagging and drooping with them would be his. weariness.
A funeral passes our car, one every These are the men that spade the day, sometimes two: a wooden cross in trenches, drive the food-transports and am- front, carried by a soldier; the whitemunition-wagons, and carry through the robed chaplain chanting; the box of light