The Apple-tree

: Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori

I set out two hundred young apple-trees, and for three years I dug

around them in the spring and the fall, and in winter wrapped them with

straw against the hares. On the fourth year, when the snow melted, I

went to take a look at my apple-trees. They had grown stouter during the

winter: the bark was glossy and filled with sap; all the branches were

sound, and at all the tips and axils there were pea-shaped flower-buds.

Here and there the buds were bursting, and the purple edges of the

flower-leaves could be seen. I knew that all the buds would be blossoms

and fruit, and I was delighted as I looked at the apple-trees. But when

I took off the wrapping from the first tree, I saw that down at the

ground the bark was nibbled away, like a white ring, to the very wood.

The mice had done that. I unwrapped a second tree, and the same had

happened there. Of the two hundred trees not one was unharmed. I smeared

pitch and wax on the nibbled spots; but when the trees were all in

bloom, the blossoms at once fell off; there came out small leaves, and

they, too, dropped off. The bark became wrinkled and black. Out of the

two hundred apple-trees only nine were left. On these nine trees the

bark had not been gnawed through all around, but strips of bark were

left on the white ring. On the strips, where the bark held together,

there grew out knots, and, although the trees suffered, they lived. All

the rest were ruined; below the rings there came out shoots, but they

were all wild.

The bark of the tree is like the arteries in man: through the arteries

the blood goes to the whole body, and through the bark the sap goes

along the tree and reaches the branches, leaves, and flowers. The whole

inside of a tree may be taken out, as is often the case with old

willows, and yet the tree will live so long as the bark is alive; but

when the bark is ruined, the tree is gone. If a man's arteries are cut

through, he will die, in the first place, because the blood will flow

out, and in the second, because the blood will not be distributed

through the body.

Even thus a birch dries up when the children bore a hole into it, in

order to drink its sap, and all the sap flows out of it.

Just so the apple-trees were ruined because the mice gnawed the bark all

around, and the sap could not rise from the roots to the branches,

leaves, and flowers.