The little Oaks and Maples have thriven, and are showing green against the already withering grass. The soil is yearly improving by letting it lie fallow, and the foot sinks into the soft cushion the uncut hay is making as a covering for the sand and gravel. If it were not for endangering the seedlings, quite a crop could be harvested. It is not soil the hill lacks so much as rain; but the long drought parches and distresses the plantation, and will do so till the trees can shade the ground and preserve its moisture.
The small Chestnut group of which I boasted in the spring has made very little progress, and hardly looks larger than it did last summer. Insects injured the early growth, and there was no later growth for lack of rain. But the trees are alive and healthy, so that we have something to be thankful for. Our one Mulberry-tree bore fruit plentifully, but failed to make much leaf-way. None of these trees were either top-dressed or watered, or they would have done better. It is impossible for us to keep everything in high condition, so that we must content ourselves with the slow progress that nature affords when unassisted. It really seems as if sunshine and water are the prime essentials, and that feeding is not half so important as drinking. With this view, it is hard to understand why it would have upset the economy of nature to have a shower every night in summer, to refresh the fields and gardens of the world. Possibly in time, when the new system of producing rain has been brought down to a fine point, there will be twice a week in villages a pyrotechnic display, accompanied with explosions, that will transform the year into a perpetual Fourth of July, to the delight of the infant mind.
Seriously speaking, should this new enterprise prove successful, what a revolution man is to produce in nature! To trust such powers to his pygmy hand is dangerous, for the consequences of his personal gratification may be fatal to millions. Fertilize the Desert of Sahara, and you cool off the south of Europe. Alter the temperature of Spain and Italy and southern France, and what is to become of the British Isles? It may be that thus the future of the Dark Continent is to be fulfilled. Migrations southward may begin. Norway and Sweden, like Greenland, may be left principally to the inferior races, while new colonies spring up in lands now tenanted but by the wandering Bedouin or the swarthy Soudanese.
Given new conditions, results are incalculable, and if the rain, as well as the lightning, is to be harnessed to the Chariot of Man, who can tell what disaster shall await the Phaeton who dares to drive such mighty and resistless steeds? Shall he too be hurled to ruin as a punishment for his overtopping ambition? or will he prove master and lord even of the elemental forces from whence he came? What is most sure is, that before they yield themselves wholly to his bidding he must suffer the consequences of his rashness, and win his way to control only by ghastly sacrifice of human life.