The year we took possession, three trees at this point - a Baldwin, a Rhode Island Greening and a Russet - furnished us with about a dozen barrels of apples. In addition, there are in other parts of the place more old-fashioned trees, like the Seek-no-Further and Early Sweet, that are extremely useful, and fairly productive in spite of their years and infirmities. One of the latter trees is quite a curiosity, for half of it is wholly denuded of bark, as if it had been struck by lightning, and the trunk is perfectly hollow, but the grafted stem still sends out very strong and healthy-looking shoots, that yield an abundance of fine rosy-cheeked fruit every other year.
The canker-worm has meddled very little with these trees, but the web-caterpillar has to be waged constant war upon, both in spring and fall, and the last two summers, owing to the preceding mild winter, this pest was particularly active and ubiquitous.
A row of Plum-trees against the east foundation-wall of the old house, which still stands, and makes a good shelter for our Raspberry bushes, seem as if they would do well if we could only cope successfully with the murderous black knot, with which we found them perfectly covered. In 1889 all the diseased portions were cut away, and since then they have sent out a quantity of tall, healthy branches, but no blossoms, from their closely polled stems; we purpose next spring to try the effect of salt bags in the crotches of the limbs, which, we have been told, is a successful way of keeping off the curculio. But from what we read of the necessary efforts to get rid of this pest, we fear that the plums would hardly be worth the trouble, for it seems as if nothing less than a Salvation Army would suffice to combat this persistent beetle sinner.
In our orchard are Iron Pears of the good old kind that would serve for ammunition in a field piece in case of war, and some rickety-looking Lawrences, that bear excellent fruit in generous quantities; and there is a picturesque Crab-apple tree which grows quite too near the great Elm to furnish any decent fruit, though it does its best, and strews the ground beneath it with its stony red and yellow apples. The old Cherry-trees were too worthless, so we cut them down. We have but few Peach-trees, though we are told they would thrive against the hill, as they like a northern exposure. We are now preparing to plant a fresh Apple orchard, which ought to be ready to bear by the time the old trees quite give out, and we are grateful for suggestions as to the best kinds for domestic uses, and eager to know whether the trees will be more likely to thrive in the moist or in the dry part of the grounds.
But there is a charm about this unproductive old orchard, with its wilderness of venerable shrubs along the fence, that no thrifty modern row of fruitful trees will ever possess. As one sits there in the shade on a sunny day, with the white petals drifting down from their lofty boughs, there is a murmur of bees among the foliage, of robins chattering among the twigs, a rustle of leaves and flowers in the gentle breeze, that seems the essence of the many summers gone that have helped to swell their great boles, and to increase their majestic height. From under the arch of branches the green meadow is visible, with wooded hills rising from its margin, among which nestle cottages, white and red, with the faint smoke curling lazily from their chimneys, up to the blue sky flecked with round white clouds. How many years the old trees have looked out upon the quiet meadow, and for how many generations have they dropped their rosy fruit!
In this new country of ours we yearn for stability, for tradition, for something to link us with that past which goes back so little way behind us here. Perhaps the grafts on these mossy limbs were brought from England by the early settlers who peopled the old colony. Under their shade the sturdy Puritan has leaned upon his spade and remembered the orchards of his native land, which he was never to see again; and now, as the vision grows before our dreaming eyes, we climb the ladder of the past, and are again in Lincolnshire, and the choir-boys are chanting softly in the distance, and the bells are ringing from St Andrew's Church, of the other Hingham, the gray towers of which we see afar off, instead of the quaint spire of our old meeting-house, whose tenscore years of life seem so little in the older world, where they reckon time by centuries instead of decades.
We see the wide green fens, and the fallow fields besprinkled with grazing herds, the rich meadows where the lush grass grows, and where great crops repay the farmers easy labor; the wolds with their chalk-hills, the thrifty hamlets, the sluggish rivers creeping to the sea, the Humber with old Hull at its mouth, the broad bay of the Wash, overlooked by English Boston, the level pastures by the swift-flowing Lindis, where the great tide came in. The bells from the great towers are ringing, - is that the "Brides of En-derby" we hear? - and so we wander in a dream of the far past, till the boom of the bells resolves itself suddenly into the humming of bees, the venerable towers vanish in the shaggy trunks around us, and we are awake once more, under the bending boughs of the old orchard, with only a robin for a chorister.