Bory de St. Vincent,2 in his Essais sur les Isles Fortunes, an entertaining description of the archipelago of the Canaries, says that in Fer, one of the Canary Islands, a nearly total privation of running water was compensated by an extraordinary tree. Bacon (Nov. Scient. Org., 412), the father Taillandier (Lettr. Edit. vii. 280), Corneille (Grand Dict., under Fer) may be consulted about this tree, called the holy one. Gonzalez d'oviedo (ii. 9) says it distils water through its trunk, branches, and leaves; which resemble so many fountains. The "exaggerator Jakson," says Bory de St. Vincent, being at Fer in 1618, saw this tree dried up during the day, but at night yielding enough water to supply the thirst of 8,000 inhabitants and 100,000 other animals. According to this authority, it was distributed from time immemorial all over the island by pipes of lead. It is nothing to "Jakson " that lead was not known from time immemorial. Viana (Cant, i.) speaks of the sacred tree as a sort of celestial pump.3 Abreu. Galuido says the holy tree was called Garoe, and that its fruit resembled an acorn, that its leaves were evergreen, and like those of a laurel. During an east wind the water harvest was the most abundant.
1 Pliny, Nat. Hist., xxiii. 24. 2 p. 220.
3 Other authorities concerning this remarkable drinking fountain are Nieremberg (Occult. Philos., ii. 350), Clavijo, Cairasio, and Dapper.
This celebrated vegetable product was unfortunately destroyed by a hurricane in 1625. But even about this date authors disagree. While Nunez de la Pena is an authority for that given, Nieremberg assures us the catastrophe occurred in 1629. Another date mentioned is 1612.
The view of Bory de St. Vincent is that this holy tree was nothing more than the Laurus Indica of Linnaeus, which is indigenous to the mountain summits of the Canary Islands. His concluding remark is pregnant with common sense: Si les auteurs que nous ont parle du Garoe ont dit qu'il etait seul de son espece dans lile, c'est qu'ils n'e'taient pas botanistes, et qu'ils n'avaient pas rifle'chi que cet arbre ayant un fruit, devait se reproduire, comme tous les autres ve'ge'taux.
The water of rivers is often clarified in a peculiar manner before drinking. For instance, that of the Ganges is said to be improved by rubbing certain nuts on the edges of the vessel in which it is kept,1 though how this may be it is as difficult to understand, as how the turtle is affected by a touch of his carapace, or the Dean and Chapter - to borrow Sydney Smith's illustration - of St. Paul's by stroking the cupola of that cathedral. The Nile water is also said to be purified by treating the vessel which holds it in a similar manner to that which holds the water of the Ganges, with bitter almonds. The bitter waters of Marah were made sweet in a far different fashion.
1 Harper's New Monthly Magazine, xi. p. 499.
The Melo-cacti of South America have earned for themselves the name of "springs of the desert," owing to their liquor-preserving properties. An ingenious drink is that of the natives of Siberia, a drink prepared of an intoxicating mushroom,1 in a peculiar and economical manner, by natural distillation.
Vinegar appears as a beverage in a few countries only, and then for special purposes. The Roman soldiers received it as a refreshing drink on their marches, and even in the time of Constantine their rations included vinegar on one day and wine on the other. After all, this vinegar may have been nothing more than what many of us drink at present under the title of wine. That "excellent claret," for instance, "fit for any gentleman's table," which may be had at Is. 6d. a bottle, may be very like the vinegar of the Roman soldier. Roman reapers used it mixed with water, we are told by Theocritus (Idyl x.), and before that time Ruth was directed to dip her morsel in the vinegar when she gleaned in the field of Boaz.
Ptisana, mentioned by Celsus (iii. 7), appears to have been a mixture of rice or barley water and vinegar.
Toast-water is a drink which may be held by some unworthy of mention, but they may change their minds after reading what Mr. James Sedgwick, apothecary at Stratford-le-bow, had to say on this subject in the year 1725. The burning of a crust and putting it hissing hot into water has, according to this gentleman, several good advantages. By it, the "raw coldness from nitrous particles are (sic) taken off and moderated, and it becomes more palatable, besides which, from the sudden hissing opposition of temperament, an elevation is made of the heterogeal particles, a motion, an interchanging position is obtained: These Principles during their intercourses will be imbibed and sucked into the bread in order, according to their respective distance and gravities, whereby the liquor will become more pure and almost uncompounded, less foreign than it was under its natural acception." And yet though all these securities are taken to blunt the "frigorific mischiefs" of the water in general, yet in many constitutions and at particular seasons it is not to be trusted without some "substantial warmth to give and maintain a glowing, e'er it dilutes and disperses." He goes on to say that it is better to add wine to the water, "to prevent the contingent hazards from the limpid element."
1 The mushroom used by the Chukchees is described by Lans-dell, Through Siberia, ii. 269, as "spotted like a leopard, and surmounted by a small hood - the fly agaric, which here has the top scarlet, flecked with white points. It sells for three or four reindeer. So powerful is the fungus that the native who eats it remains drunk for several days. Half a dozen persons may be successively intoxicated by a single mushroom, but every one in a less degree than his predecessor: Goldsmith, Chinese Philosopher.
Braket or Bragget or Bragwort, was a drink made of the wort of ale, honey, and spices.1 Her mouth, says Chaucer, speaking of Alison, the carpenter's pretty wife in the Mothers Tale,