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Har. I should like to know something about it.
Tut. Very well; then, instead of reading, we will sit and talk about Oaks. George, you knew the Oak by its acorns-should you have known it if there had been none? Geo. I don't know-I believe not.
Tut. Observe, then, in the first place, that its bark is very rugged. Then see in what manner it grows. arms run out almost horizontally from its trunk, giving the whole tree a-sort of round form, and making it spread far on every side. Its branches are also subject to be crooked or kneed. By these marks you might guess at an Oak even in winter, when quite bare of leaves. But its leaves afford a surer mark of distinction, since they differ a good deal froin those of other trees, being neither whole and even at the edges, nor yet cut like the teeth of a
saw, but rather deeply scolloped, and formed into several rounded divisions. Their colour is a fine deep green. Then the fruit
Tut. Yes—all kinds of plants have what may properly be called fruit, though we are apt to give that name only to such as are food for man. The fruit of a plant is the seed, with what contains it. This, in the Oak, is called an acorn, which is a kind of nut, partly inclosed in a cup.
Geo. Acorn cups are very pretty things. I have made boats of them, and set them swimming in a basin.
Tut. And if you were no bigger than a fairy, you might use them for drinking cups, as those imaginary little beings are said to do.
Pearly drops of dew we drink,
Har. Are acorns good to eat ? icis
Geo. No, that they are not. I have The tried, and did not like them at all.
Tut. In the early ages of man, before he cultivated the earth, but lived upon such wild products as nature afforded, we are told that acorns made a considerable part of his food; and at this day I believe they are eaten in some countries. But this is in warmer climates,
where they probably become sweeter arth and better flavoured than with us. The
chief use we make of them is to feed rett hogs. In those parts of England where
Oak woods are common, great herds of swine are kept, which are driven into the woods in autumn, when the acorns
fall, and provide for themselves plentieing
fully for two or three months. This, however, is a small part of the praise of the Oak. You will be surprised when I tell you, that to this tree our country owes its chief glory and security.
Har. Ay, how can that be?
Tut. I don't know whether in your reading you have ever met with the story, that Athens, a famous city in Greece, consulting the oracle how it might best defend itself against its enemies, was advised to trust to wooden walls.
Har. Wooden walls ?-that's oddI should think stone walls better; for wooden ones might be set on fire.
Tut. True: but the meaning was, that as Athens was a place of great trade, and its people were skilled in maritime affairs, they ought to trust to their ships. Well, this is the case with Great Britain. As it is an island, it has no need of walls and fortifications, while it possesses ships to keep all enemies at a distance. Now, we have the greatest and finest navy in the world, by which we both defend ourselves, and attack other nations, when
they insult us; and this is all built of oak.
Geo. Would no other wood do to build ships ?
Tut. None nearly so well, especially for men of war; for it is the stoutest and strongest wood we have; and therefore best fitted, both to keep sound under water, and to bear the blows and shocks of the waves, and the terrible strokes of cannon balls. It is a peculiar excellence for this last purpose, that Oak is not so liable to splinter or shiver as other woods, so that a ball can pass through it without making a large hole. Did you never hear the old song,
Heart of Oak are our ships, hearts' of Oak are
our men, &c. ?
Tut. It was made at a time when England was more successful in war than had ever before been known, and