What is it the magician says in fairy stories, when he makes the most surprising things happen?

"Presto, change!" and he claps his hands.

Jack Frost is this wonder worker of the forest. After a still, sharp night in October, a hundred things seem to have happened all at once. The ground is white with frozen dew. The trees are great torches of gold and red. They blaze all the brighter because the sky is veiled with a violet haze.

It is the maples that first light up our woods with these flickering fires. No country of the old world has trees that make such a wonderful color show as our maples. Their leaves are never of one tint, but are mottled and shaded, from lemon yellow to orange, flame-red and crimson. You know the thin-leafed red maple sifts sunlight. To look up through one, in the fall, is like looking through a splendid stained glass window of a church.

The oaks show no yellow, and the leaves are of a strong solid color. But different varieties of oaks give them a range of all the reds from scarlet to wine, and then add warm browns and bronze greens. The elms and beeches are in russet yellows, the birches and poplars pure gold, the nut trees yellow. On every brook the willow leaves float like little fleets of sunny canoes. The fairy craft drift down stream, swirl over eddies and go under.

Below the boughs of the tall trees, all these colors are repeated in the shrubs and vines. The sumac is a burning bush with torch-cones of seeds. The broad leaves of the grape vine turn to bronze. The berry briars are dark as the wine oaks. The big, smooth sassafras leaves are mottled in orange and flame, like the maples. There are notes of purple in the clusters of wild grapes, in the leaves of the alders and some of the ashes; and of scarlet in the seed hips of roses, the clustered berries of the mountain ash and of the bittersweet vine. Below all these the foot-high seedlings of the forest show the colors of the parent trees, among the brown of frost-bitten ferns and fallen leaves.

There is no hurry about anything. The autumn trees often take three or four weeks of Indian summer to strip their boughs for winter. The leaves drift down, silently, like great colored butterflies. Whole troupes of them dance in little gusts of wind. On frosty nights the nuts drop with soft patterings. Squirrels slip, brown and gray shadows, over the bright carpets', laying in their winter stores. The song birds take their last meals of seeds and cocoon babies and fly southward.

October is the time to study the fruits of forest trees. Many of the trees—the willows, poplars, elms and red maples drop their seeds in the spring. The rock maple keeps its seed until frost, and so do all the nut trees and the wild orchard fruits. All the maple seeds have two thin, flat green wings, like a thumb screw, an inch or more across. In the thickened bases of the two wings, two seeds lie coiled. You can peel away the thin, paper-like covering and find them. And you can learn how they begin to grow by pulling up the smallest seedlings of the red maples.

Acorns lie thick under the oak trees. They will tell you the names of the parent trees. But keep very still and the squirrels will tell you some things. The gray and brown squirrels and the little striped chipmunks will pass some acorns by, but will pick up others eagerly and scamper away with them. Up the trees they go, or into hollow logs or holes in the ground, to their hidden store-rooms. They like the sweet acorns of the white, the chestnut and the live oaks. They have to be very hungry before they eat the bitter nuts of the black, the red and the bur oaks. How can they tell them apart?

Very likely all acorns look alike to you. They all have a shiny, brown shell with a white "eye" where they grew fast to the cups. The acorn of the white oak has a very rough, mossy cup much shorter than the pointed nut. The bur oak is often called the over-cup oak because its mossy, fringed cup covers quite two-thirds of the round acorn. In the live oak of our southern states, the cup tapers back to the twig, broadens at the top and almost encloses the acorn. The red oak has a shallow cup, more like a saucer, the scaly ring just clasping the long oval acorn. The scarlet oak acorn is top shaped, with a point for spinning, and is half covered with a shaggy cap of a cup, like a tam-o-shanter. There are other oaks, with acorns that are still different, but these are the best known.