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LXVII.-GALL-NUTS. 1. The gall-nuts of commerce are found on the branches of shrubby oaks. By the phrase "gall-nuts of commerce "
is meant simply those which are of sufficient value to be bought and sold.
2. Gall-nuts are usually round, varying from the size of a pea to that of a hazel-nut. The best of them are heavy and brittle, of a deep olive color or black. In commerce they are known as white, green and blue gall-nuts.
3. The white ones are those which were not gathered till the insect had made its escape. These are not as heavy as the others, and, being of a lighter color, are not worth as much. The green and blue gall-nuts, or galls, as they are often called, are gathered before the insect leaves them. These are heavier and darker than the white ones, and yield about one third more coloring matter.
4. These curious excrescences, and all similar ones found on the leaves, branches and roots of trees, are caused by the sting of insects when depositing their eggs. There are many kinds of insects that produce these excrescences, which form protection and nourishment to the eggs and the young insects. The oak, which bears the gall-nuts of commerce, is a shrub not more than four or five feet in height.
5. These galls are very astringent, and have an unpleasant, bitter taste. The best of them are imported from Aleppo and Smyrna, in Asia Minor. They are used in medicine and in dyeing, and also in making ink, which enables us, among other things, to converse with our friends, be their distance never so great.
6. The human voice extends over a small circle only; but the pen, dipped in a liquid dyed with the gall-nut, sends forth winged words across seas and over distant lands, bearing our thoughts and telling the words we would speak.
7. Thus, wherever we turn our eyes in nature we may behold the hand of an Infinite Creator, in the wonderful adaptation and usefulness of every thing, even of the most inferior of creatures.
LXVIII.—THE PRAIRIE ON FIRE.
1. The long grass, burned brown
In the summer's fierce heat,
'Neath the traveler's feet,
Through all the long day,
Moves slow on its way.
Are the little ones stowed,
By the team in the road;
With the babe on her breast,
And longs for its rest.
That dull trampling tread;
Hạs grown suddenly red!
At the hour of noon?
It is not the moon.
4. The horses are rearing
And snorting with fear,
Come flying the deer,
And eyes rolling back,
Were hard on their track.
5. The mother clasps closer
The babe on her arm,
In wildest alarm;
As the red light mounts higher: “ We are lost! we are lost!
'Tis the prairie on fire!”
6. The boys, terror-stricken,
Stand still, all but one;
The thing to be done:
The quick flames leap in air,
Lies smoking and bare !
7. Now the fire-fiend behind
Rushes on in his power,
For his wrath to devour;
They stand safe, every one,
Sweep harmlessly on.
8. Then reverently under
The wide sky they kneel,
To speak what they feel;
Is blessing his boy,
LXIX.-DANIEL WEBSTER ON WOODCHUCKS.
HIS FIRST PLEA.
1. Ebenezer Webster, father of Daniel, was a farmer. The vegetables in his garden suffered considerably from the depredations of a woodchuck, whose hold and habitation was near the premises. Daniel, some ten or twelve years old, and his brother Ezekiel, had set a trap and at last succeeded in catching the trespasser.
2. Ezekiel proposed to kill the animal, and end at once all further trouble with him; but Daniel looked with compassion upon his meek, dumb captive, and offered to let him go. The boys could not agree, and each appealed to their father to decide the case.
3. “Well, my boys,” said the old gentleman, “I will be judge, and you shall be the counsel to plead the case for and against his life and liberty.”
4. Ezekiel opened the case with a strong argument, urging the mischievous nature of the criminal and the great harm he had already done; said that much time and labor had been spent in his capture, and now, if suffered to go at large, he would renew his depredations, and be cunning enough not to be caught again, and that he ought now to be put to death; that his skin was of some value, and
that, make the most of him they could, it would not repay half the damage he had already done.
5. His argument was ready, practical and to the point, and of much greater length than here given. The father looked with pride upon his son, who in his manhood became a distinguished jurist.
Now, Daniel,” said he, “it is your turn; I will hear what you have to say."
6. It was Daniel's first case. He saw that the plea of his brother had sensibly affected his father, the judge, and his large, brilliant black eyes rested upon the soft, timid expression of the animal, and he saw that it trembled with fear in its narrow prison-house; his heart swelled with pity, and he appealed with eloquent words that the captive might go free. God, he said, had made the woodchuck; He made him to live, to enjoy the bright sunshine, the pure air, the trees, fields and woods.
7. God had not made him or any thing else in vain. The woodchuck had as much right to live as any other living thing; he was not a destructive animal like the wolf; he simply ate a few common vegetables, of which they had plenty and could well spare a part; he de stroyed nothing except the little food he ate to sustain his humble life, and that little food was as sweet to him, and as necessary to his existence, as was to them the food on their mother's table.
8. God furnished them their own food; He gave them all they possessed, and would they not spare a little for a dumb creature who really had as much right to his small share of God's bounty as they themselves had to their portion? Yea, more; the animal had never violated the laws of his nature or the laws of God, as man often had, but strictly followed the simple instincts he had received from the hands of the Creator of all things. Created by