Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/67

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59
THE MILK IN THE COCOA-NUT.

you sell them at last for illimitable red cloth to the Manchester piece-goods merchant. Nothing could be more simple or more satisfactory. And yet it is difficult to see the precise moral distinction between the owner of a cocoa-nut grove in the South-Sea Islands and the owner of a coal-mine or a big estate in commercial England. Each lounges decorously through life after his own fashion; only the one lounges in a Russia-leather chair at a club in Pall Mall, while the other lounges in a nice soft dust-heap beside a rolling surf in Tahiti or the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Curiously enough, at a little distance from the sandy levels or alluvial flats of the sea-shore, the sea-loving cocoa-nut will not bring its nuts to perfection. It will grow, indeed, but it will not thrive or fruit in due season. On the coast-line of Southern India, immense groves of cocoa-nuts fringe the shore for miles and miles together; and in some parts, as in Travancore, they form the chief agricultural staple of the whole country. "The state has hence facetiously been called Cocoanutcore," says its historian; which charmingly illustrates the true Anglo-Indian notion of what constitutes facetiousness, and ought to strike the last nail into the coffin of a competitive examination system. A good tree in full bearing should produce one hundred and twenty cocoa-nuts in a season; so that a very small grove is quite sufficient to maintain a respectable family in decency and comfort. Ah, what a mistake the English climate made when it left off its primitive warmth of the Tertiary period, and got chilled by the ice and snow of the Glacial epoch down to its present misty and dreary wheat-growing condition! If it were not for that, those odious habits of steady industry and perseverance might never have been developed in ourselves at all, and we might be lazily picking copra off our own cocoa-palms, to this day, to export in return for the piece-goods of some Arctic Manchester situated somewhere about the north of Spitzbergen or the New Siberian Islands.

Even as things stand at the present day, however, it is wonderful how much use we modern Englishmen now make in our own houses of this far Eastern nut, whose very name still bears upon its face the impress of its originally savage origin. From morning to night we never leave off being indebted to it. We wash with it as old brown Windsor or glycerine soap the moment we leave our beds. We walk across our passages on the mats made from its fiber. We sweep our rooms with its brushes, and wipe our feet on it as we enter our doors. As rope, it ties up our trunks and packages; in the hands of the house-maids it scrubs our floors; or else, woven into coarse cloth, it acts as a covering for bales and furniture sent by rail or steamboat. The confectioner undermines our digestion in early life with cocoanut candy; the cook tempts us later on with cocoa-nut cake; and Messrs. Huntley and Palmer cordially invite us to complete the ruin with cocoa-nut biscuits. We anoint our chapped hands with one of