Open main menu

Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/906

This page has been validated.

manner; and so continued its labour, gathering and burying, as long as the gentleman had patience to watch it. This industry in the squirrel is an instinct which directs it to lay up a store of provision for the winter; and it is probable that its memory is not sufficiently retentive to recollect all the spots in which it deposits its acorns; it no doubt makes some slips in the course of the season, and loses some of them. These few spring up, and are, in time, destined to supply the place of the parent tree. As with the squirrel, so with the jays and pies, which plant horse-beans among the grass and moss, and probably forget where they have secreted them. John White of Selborne, the naturalist, said that both horse-beans and peas sprang up in his field-walks in the autumn; and he attributed the sowing of them to birds. Bees, he also observed, are much the best setters of cucumbers. If they do not happen to take kindly to the frames, the best way is to tempt them with a little honey put on the male and female bloom. When they are once induced to haunt the frames they set all the fruit, and will hover with impatience round the lights in a morning till the glasses are opened. The important function which insects discharge in the fertilization of plants will be familiar to all who have read the late Mr. Darwin's works.

Some of the acorns planted by the squirrel of Monmouthshire may be now in a fair way to become, at the end of some centuries, venerable trees, for not the least remarkable quality of oaks is the strong principle of life with which they are endued. In Major Rooke's Sketch of the Forest of Sherwood, we find it stated that, on some timber cut down in Berkland and Bilhaugh, letters were found stamped in the bodies of the trees, denoting the King's reign in which they were marked. The bark appears to have been cut off, and then the letters to have been cut in, and the next year's wood to have grown over them without adhering to where the bark had been cut out. The ciphers were found to be of James I, William and Mary, and one of King John. One of the ciphers of James was about one foot within the tree, and one foot from the centre. It was cut down in 1786. The tree must have been two feet in diameter, or two yards in circumference, when the mark was cut. A tree of this size is generally estimated at 120 years' growth; which number being substracted from the middle year of the reign of James, would carry the year back to 1492, which would be about the period of its being planted. The tree with the cipher of William and Mary displayed its mark about nine inches within the tree, and three feet three inches from the centre. This tree was felled in 1786. The cipher of John was eighteen inches within the tree, and rather more than a foot from the centre. The middle year of the reign of that monarch was 1207. By subtracting from this 120, the number of years requisite for a tree's growth to arrive at the diameter of two feet, the date of its being planted would seem to have been 1085, or about twenty years after the Conquest.