Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/378

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of a soft, sweet, white growth, like a very light blanc-mange. If at this stage the nut escapes the gourmet of the South Seas, the young germ will soon force open one of the three eyes, and, working its way through the fibrous husk, begin its heavenward growth; while from the other two eyes will sprout two rootlets, which instinctively turn downwards, and likewise penetrating the thick protecting outer case, find their way to mother earth, and there strike root. Still the white sponge within the nut goes on expanding, till at length it splits the hard wooden shell, and then gradually decays, and so forms a light nourishing soil, which acts as mother's milk to the baby tree in its delicate early days. After a while it needs no such provision, but flourishes, in grace and beauty, where other trees would starve.

I wonder that no one has ever discovered in the cocoa-palm a meet emblem of charity. Of all plants that grow, none asks so little, or gives so largely. It matters not how dry and barren is the shallow soil, or how briny the coral-sand, washed by every rising tide, the hardy palm strikes its roots among the fragments of coral, and, bending to the gale, weathers the wild storms, and yields its generous increase as abundantly as its more fortunate brethren in the rich soil of sheltered, well—watered valleys. The poorest islander on the loneliest atoll, possessed of a few cocoa-palms, can exist. They give him food and drink, a fibrous material, all ready woven, like coarse canvas, for dress; leaves for thatch, and oil for light, and for personal adornment and comfort. To obtain the latter, he collects a lot of old nuts, such as those we see for sale in England, and scraping out the kernel into some old canoe, leaves the whole mass for some days exposed to the sun, till the pure oil exudes, and without further trouble he stores it in any vessels he may possess—gourds or bamboos. Of course, a European who trades in palm-oil prefers to collect it in the form of copprai.e., dried cocoa-nut—as a much larger amount of oil is obtained by pressure of machinery.

Another hardy child of these coral-isles is the pandanus, or screw-pine, as it is commonly called, because its leaves, which grow in tufts at the tips of the branches, are all set like a screw, twisting