At the foot of the hill, at each end, is a clump of White Birches, ladies of the woods that have strayed from their home, and lost themselves on this waste, and rustle their thin leaves timorously, bending their slender white stems as the sea-blasts strike them. Now that we have stopped mowing and pasturing, we find clumps of Bayberry and Chokecheny bushes coming up under the tumble-down old rail-fences between us and our neighbors, so that these last are already high enough to shade the boys when, tired and hot with play, they throw themselves upon the ground under their grateful protection. For on the summit of the hill there is level space enough, inside our line, for a tennis-court, from which you can look for a mile across the meadow to the tree-clad hills beyond, and the clustered houses and masts of the harbor, half-buried in trees, and seek for the blue line upon the high horizon that indicates the sea.
Straggling paths, worn by careless feet, lead up the hillside in those pleasant, meandering ways that indicate the foot of man, and, in imagination, we see them shaded by the Birches and Pines that we have hopefully planted along the borders; for, in moving our trees with the surrounding sod, we usually brought along these close companions; the Fines and Birches being so married, in most instances, that it seemed a cruelty to separate them.
Hope and faith are qualities that find splendid exercise in tree-planting, and no pursuit can be more unselfish; for, as we watch the tardy growth of our plantations, it is with the stern conviction that other eyes than ours will see the waving of tree-tops above them, and that far younger feet will tread the fragrant woodland ways when they are at last carpeted with Pine-needles. It is by this spirit that we become one with Nature, sharing humbly in her patience, in her vast unending plans, in her bountiful provision for the future. What better boon to the race can a man leave than a wood that he has planted, in which a future generation may walk and bless his name? Or, if the name be forgotten, there shall abide the forest-blessing, ever beneficent, the mother of springs that fertilize the plain, a shelter to the weary, a delight of the eye, a source alike of profit and pleasure while it endures.
We have friends who scoff when we take them to walk in our forest and beg them not to step on the Oaks; but, to us, these tiny seedlings, so feeble and unimportant, are personalities that we have cherished through successive seasons, feeding them when hungry, giving drink when dry, grieving when their tender leaves, scorched by too fierce a sun, withered and fell, and rejoicing when, under the cool rains of September, their little bare stems put forth fresh crowns of leaf-buds. Much comfort can be taken in the fact that an Oak once rooted will not wholly perish, but some day conquer even the most obdurate of soils. Like good seed sown in the heart of a child, the storms and sunshine of the world may seem for a time to wither the plant to the ground, but in the end the beauty and power of deep-rooted character will prevail and bear fruit.