« ElőzőTovább »
it, without a border, or a parterre, or a terrace, is a place to sit down and dream in, notwithstanding that it touches the road, for thus left to itself it has acquired an atmosphere of peace and stillness such as belongs to and grows up in woods and far
by would go on without even noticing it it is so commonplace and unpretentious, merely a corner of meadow irregularly dotted with apple-trees; a place that needs frequent glances and a dreamy mood to understand as the birds understand it. They are always here, even in the winter, starlings and blackbirds particularly, who resort to a kind of furrow there, which, even in frost, seems to afford them some food. In the spring thrushes move along, rustling the fallen leaves as they search behind the arum sheaths unrolling beside the palings, or under the shelter of the group of trees where arum roots are plentiful. There are nooks and corners from which shy creatures can steal out from the shadow and be happy. The dew falls softly, more noiseless than snow, and a star shines to the north over the spruce fir. By day there is a loving streak of sunshine somewhere among the tree trunks; by night a star above. The trees are nothing to speak of in size or height, but they seem always to bloom well and to be fruitful; tree-climbers run up these and then go off to the elms.
there he sang and sang for hours every morning. A sharp, relentless shrike lives in one of the trees close by, and is perpetually darting across the road upon insects on the sward among the fern there.. There are several thrushes who reside in this orchard besides the lesser birds. Swal-away coombs of the hills. A stray passerlows sometimes twitter from the tops of the apple-trees. As the grass is so safe from intrusion one of the earliest buttercups flowers here. The apple bloom appears rosy on the bare boughs only lately Scourged by the east wind. After a time the trees are in full bloom, set about into the green of the hedges and bushes and the dark spruce behind. Bennets, the flower of the grass, come up. The first bennet is to green things what a swallow is to the breathing creatures of summer. White horse chestnut blooms stand up in their stately way, lighting the path, which is strewn with fallen oak flower. May appears on the hawthorn; there is an early bush of it. Now the grass is so high the flowers are lost under it, even the buttercups are overtopped, and soon as the young apples take form and shape white bramble bloom will cover the bushes by the palings. Acorns will show on the oaks; the berries will ripen from red to black beneath. Along the edge of the path, where the dandelions and plantains are thick with seed, the greenfinches will come down and select those they like best; this they often do by the footpath beside the road. Lastly, the apples become red; the beech in the corner has an orange spray, and cones hang long and brown upon the spruce. The thrushes after silence sing again, and autumn ap proaches. But, pass when you may, this little orchard has always something because it is left to itself I had written neglected, I struck the word out, for this is not neglect, this is true attention, to leave it to itself, so that the young trees trail over the bushes and stay till the berries fall of their own over-ripeness, if perchance spared by the birds; so that the dead brown leaves lie and are not swept away unless the wind pleases; so that all things follow their own course and bent. Almost opposite, by autumn, when the reapers are busy with the sheaves, the hedge is white with the large trumpet flowers of the greater convolvulus. The hedgerow seems made of convolvulus then, nothing but convolvulus; nowhere else does the flower flourish so strongly, and the bines remain till the following spring. This little orchard, without a path through
Beside the Long Ditton road, up the gentle incline on the left side, the broad sward is broken by thickets and brake like those of a forest. If a forest were cleared, as those in America are swept away before the axe, but a line of underwood left beside the highway, the result would be much the same as may be seen here when the bushes and fern are in perfection. Thick hawthorn bushes stand at unequal distances surrounded with brake; one with a young oak in the centre. Fern extends from one thicket to the other, and brambles fence the thorns, which are themselves well around. From such coverts the boar was started in old English days, the fawns hide behind and about them even now in many a fair park, and where there are no deer they are frequented by hares. So near the dust which settles on them as the wheels raise it, of course, every dog that passes runs through, and no game could stay an hour, but they are the exact kind of cover game like. One morning this spring, indeed, I noticed a cock pheasant calmly walking along the ridge of a furrow in the ploughed field,
parted from these bushes by the hedge. He was so near the highway that I could see the ring about his neck. I have seen peewits or green plovers in the same field, which is now about to be built on. But though no game could stay an hour in such places, lesser birds love them, whitethroats build there, goldcrests come down from the dark pines opposite - they seem fond of pines-yellow-hammers sit and sing on them, and they are visited all day long by one or other. The little yellow flowers of tormentil are common in the grass as autumn approaches, and grasshoppers, which do not seem plentiful here, sing there. Some betony flowers are opposite on the other sward. There is a marshy spot by one of the bushes where among the rushes various semi-aquatic grasses grow. Blackberries are thick in favorable seasons -like all fruit they are an uncertain crop; and hawkweeds are there everywhere on the sward towards the edge. The peculiar green of fern, which is more of a relief to the eye than any other shrub with which I am acquainted, so much so that I wonder it is not more imitated, is remarkable here when the burning July sun shines on the white dust thus fringed. By then trees are gone off in color, the hedges are tired with heat, but the fern is a soft green which holds the glance. This varies much with various seasons; this year the fern is particularly late from a lack of moisture, but sometimes it is really beautiful between these bushes. It is cut down in its full growth by those who have charge of the road, and the scene is entirely destroyed for the remainder of the season; it is not often that such bushes and such fern are found beside the highway, and if not any annoyance to the residents, are quite as worthy of preservation (not "preservation" by beadle) as open spaces like commons. Children, and many of larger growth, revel about them, gathering the flowers in spring and summer, the grasses and the blackberries in autumn. It is but a strip of sward, but it is as wild as if in the midst of a forest. A pleasure to every one therefore destroy it.
In the evening from the rise of the road here I sometimes hear the cry of a barn owl skirting the hedge of Southborough Park, and disappearing under the shadow of the elms that stand there. The stars appear and the whole dome of the sum mer night is visible, for in a level plain like this a slight elevation brings the horizon into view. Without moon the June
nights are white; a faint white light shows through the trees of Southborough Park northwards; the west has not lost all its tint over the Ditton hollow; white flowers stand in the grass; white road, white flintheaps even, white clouds, and the stars, too, light without color.
By day the breeze comes south and west, free over fields, over corn and grass and hedgerow; so slight a mound as this mere rise in the riverside plain lifts you up into the current of the air. Where the wind comes the sunlight is purer.
The sorrel is now high and ripening in the little meadows beside the road just beyond the orchard. As it ripens the meadow becomes red, for the stalks rise above the grass. This is the beginning of the feast of seeds. The sorrel ripens just as the fledglings are leaving the nest; if you watch the meadow a minute you will see the birds go out to it, now flying up a moment and then settling again. After a while comes the feast of grain; then another feast of seeds among the stubble, and the ample fields, and the furze of the hills; then berries, and then winter, and the last seed.
A June rose. Something caught my eye on the top of the high hawthorn hedge beside the Brighton Road one evening as it was growing dusk, and on looking again there was a spray of briar in flower, two roses in full bloom and out of reach, and one spray of three growing buds. So it is ever with the June rose. It is found unexpectedly, and when you are not look. ing for it. It is a gift, not a discovery, or anything earned a gift like love and happiness. With ripening grasses the rose comes, and the rose is summer; till then it is spring. On the green banks — waste places beside the "New Road" (Kingsdown Road formerly) the streaked pink convolvulus is in flower; a sign that the spring forces have spent themselves, that the sun is near his fulness. The flower itself is shapely, yet it is not quite welcome; it says too plainly that we are near the meridian. There are months of warmth to follow-brilliant sunshine and new beauties; but the freshness, the joyous looking forward of spring is gone. Upon these banks the first coltsfoot flowers in March, the first convolvulus in summer, and almost the last hawkweed in autumn. A yellow vetchling, too, is now opening its yellow petals beside the Long Ditton road; another summer flower, which comes in as the blue veronica is leaving the sward.
As tall as the young corn the mayweed fringes the arable fields with its white rays and yellow centre, somewhat as the broad moon-daisies stand in the grass. By this time generally the corn is high above the mayweed, but this year the flower is level with its shelter. The pale corn buttercup is in flower by the New Road, not in the least overshadowed by the crops at the edge of which it grows. By the stream through Tolworth Common spotted persicaria is rising thickly, but even this stronggrowing plant is backward and checked on the verge of the shrunken stream. The showers that have since fallen have not made up for the lack of the April rains, which in the most literal sense cause the flowers of May and June. Without those early spring rains the wild flowers cannot push their roots and develop their stalks in time for the summer sun. The sunshine and heat finds them unprepared. In the ditches the square-stemmed figwort is conspicuous by its dark green. It is very plentiful about Surbiton. Just outside the garden in a waste corner the yellow flowers of celandine are overhung with wild hops and white bryony, two strong plants of which have climbed up the copse hedge, twining in and out each other. Both have vine-like leaves; but the hops are wrinkled, those of the bryony hairy or rough to the touch. The hops seem to be the most powerful, and hold the bryony in the background. The young spruce firs which the wood-pigeon visited in the spring with an idea of building there looks larger and thicker now the fresh green needles have appeared.
In the woodland lane to Claygate the great elder bushes are coming into flower, each petal a creamy white. The dogwood, too, is opening, and the wild guelder-roses there are in full bloom. There is a stile from which a path leads across the fields thence to Hook. The field by the stile was fed off in spring, and now is yellow with birdsfoot lotus, which tints it because the grass is so short. From the grass at every footstep a crowd of little "hoppers" leap in every direction, scattering themselves hastily abroad. The little mead by the copse here is more open to the view this year, as the dry winter has checked the growth of ferns and rushes. There is a flock of missel-thrushes in it; the old birds feed the young, who can fly well, in the centre of the field. Lesser birds come over from the hedges to the bunches of rushes. Slowly wandering along the lane and looking over the mound on the right
hand (cow-wheat with yellow lip is in flower on the mound), there are glimpses between the bushes and the Spanish chestnut-trees of far-away blue hills-blue under the summer sky.
From Chambers' Journal. BRICK TEA.
EVERY reader of books of Eastern travel is familiar with the name of brick tea, but few writers have taken the trouble to explain, even in the roughest manner, what is the actual character of the commodity, and still less how it is made. It is, as yet, a peculiarly Chinese manufacture, although if our Indian planters obtain the access into the markets of Tibet for which they are longing, it will have to become a regular product in the gardens of Assam and Cachar, although possibly not in Ceylon, as the consuming markets are in central Asia.
In a former article we explained the differences in the processes of tea manufacture in China and in India (see "The Revolution in Tea," Journal, Aug. 10, 1889), and showed how the falling-off in favor of the Chinese tea in Europe is chiefly due to the carelessness with which it is prepared for market. There is more than carelessness, however, in Chinathere is also fraud in packing, and "lie tea" is a known article of commerce in some parts of China. Now, lie tea goes to the making of brick tea for the Tibetan, which is the principal, market.
The area on which tea is grown for this special purpose is an extensive one in the western provinces, of which Yung-ching may be called the centre; but the plant is a very different one from the carefully cultivated bushes of eastern China, from which European tea is made. For one thing, the Yung-ching plant is allowed to grow much higher often to fifteen feet
and it has a large and coarse leaf, two to two and a half inches long. The best brick tea is made in gardens where these trees are planted in rows and kept in fair order; but, according to Mr. Colborne Baber, the larger portion of tea for Tibet is supplied from bushes which are allowed to grow pretty much at their own sweet will along the borders of the fields and on the hillsides—in fact, from half wild plants. In the fourth year these trees begin to yield, and they continue productive for many years. In June, the pickings
begin. There is, first, the young upper | feet high. A man will carry from eight leaves, which the Chinese keep for them- to twelve paos on his back all the distance selves; second, the leaves of young plants; and third, everything that can be stripped from the trees, including twigs and sticks. It is the last picking which is usually turned into "bricks."
This is the process of manufacture. The leaves and twigs, after being sundried, are put into a cloth and suspended over a boiler to be steamed. Meanwhile, the mould is got ready, consisting of four short boards set up on end and securely fastened, with an internal space of about nine inches by three and a half inches. Within this cavity is placed a woven matbasket, and into this the softened leaves and twigs are dropped in small handfuls, with a little rice-water to cause the mass to adhere. As layer after layer is added, the stuff is compressed by powerful blows from an iron-shod rammer. Next the coarser twigs are dried and ground to powder, and sprinkled over the other mass, or between the layers, so as to become welded in. The flexible basket round the tea prevents the mass from taking too angular a shape, as sharp corners on the bricks would make them awkward to carry on the long journey they have to perform. After the mould is filled and sufficiently compressed, it is taken to pieces, and the cake, still within the mat, or basket, is taken again to the fire to be thoroughly dried. Then the ends of the mat are drawn together and closed up, and the pao, or cake, is ready for transport to Ta-chienlu, where it undergoes further preparation. It should be mentioned that the cakes are weighed after being steamed, and are sold on that weight, although they lose about a third after being dried. At Ta-chien-lu they are cut into uniform sizes and repacked as chuan, or bricks.
The best kind of brick tea, such as is meant for the Russian market, is more carefully prepared. The choice leaves only are taken, and are spread in the sun until slightly withered. They are then rolled in the hand until they become moist with exudation, and pressed into small balls, which are left to ferment. When fermentation begins, they are ready for the moulds, and the process is pretty much as above described, but without the admixture of the twig-dust.
From Yung-ching and the other places of manufacture, the tea is carried either by porters or on mules to Ta-chien-lu, a distance of from one to two hundred miles, over two mountain passes seven thousand
- a weight of from one hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds, sometimes a good deal more, and over terrible heights where every step must be picked. The journey will take a porter about twenty days, and a mule about half the time; but the mule can carry only half as much as the porter.
A brick should weigh sixty Chinese ounces; but even the better quality seldom exceeds fifty-five ounces, while the common quality usually weighs in transport from forty to forty-five ounces. Thus the number of bricks transported hardly affords a fair test of the actual quantity; but it is computed that the annual export of brick tea from western China to Tibet is not less than twelve million English pounds. This seems an enormous quantity; but it is to be remarked that, to the Tibetans, tea is an absolute necessity, not a luxury. They drink it at all hours, and without it grow restless, discontented, and unhappy. It is not cheap, however, as the Lamas keep the retail trade in their own hands. The selling price ranges from about sixpence to two or three shillings per pound, according to the distance from the tea-route; but the Lamas will, it is said, often exact in payment labor and produce from the people, who have no choice of markets.
This is how the brick tea is used in Tibet. The teapot is something like a butter-churn, into which a portion of the brick is thrown. After boiling, the infusion is passed through a strainer, and a little salt is added, after which the churn is stirred some twenty times. Then a lump of butter is added, and the churning repeated for some hundred or hundred and fifty turns. The tea is then ready for drinking, but of course has little or no resemblance to the fragrant and cheerful cup sacred to English "five o'clocks; " or even to the less fragrant and more astringent beverage with which too many working-women, and men also, injure their nerves and their stomachs. But astringency is what the Tibetan covets, and he would not thank you for a cup of choice Pekoe. The taste of the Tibetan infusion has been humorously likened by Mr. Colborne Baber to something like weak English tea with rich milk but without any sugar or tea. The tea-principle is there, affecting the flavor of the butter and water, but not giving the taste of tea.
How highly this trashy compound is prized in the land of the Lamas, however,
may be inferred from the fact that not very | Tibet. It is certainly a tantalizing thing long ago, and before rupees became com- to think that the largest tea-consumers in paratively abundant, tea-bricks were used the world- for the Tibetans are believed as currency. Even yet, it is said, in some parts of the country a brick of tea is not merely worth a rupee, but is used as a rupee for purposes of trade and without regard to weight. This practice, however, has not been without its retributive side. The Lamas of Batang had stored up a vast quantity of tea-bricks as reserve treasure, regarding each brick as equal to a rupee. But when the Indian money began to circulate, and the Lamas wanted to convert their tea-money into silver, they found they could only do so at a loss of nearly forty per cent. Hoarding does not always pay, and one does not pity the monks, who had been exacting the uttermost anna out of the people for their dispensable tea.
to consume from half an ounce to one ounce of tea per head per day should be so near our Indian tea gardens, and yet, for all trade purposes, as far off as the moon. Darjeeling is, by road, within a very few days' journey from Lhassa; and indeed Calcutta itself is as near, as the crow flies, to the capital of Tibet as Paris is to Berlin. And then one could offer the Tibetans genuine, good, wholesome, fragrant tea, made into bricks if they like, but not made out of brushwood and rubbish. Meanwhile, the remarkable fact is that the best tea in the world goes to Russia; and the worst tea in the world is eagerly bought and voraciously conin-sumed in Tibet. The brick tea of Asiatic Russia is delicious; the brick tea of exclusive Tibet is nauseous trash.
The Indian rupee, it should be said, began to find its way in quantity into Tibet about five-and-twenty years ago, and is now fairly abundant there. The Russian silver rouble is said to be current also, and the circulation of these coins has done a great deal to break down the Lamas' monopoly of tea.
To come back to Ta-chien-lu, where the bricks pass into Tibetan hands. They are there wrapped in skins and carried in pack-saddles to Batang. These are curious and ingenious contrivances. Two light boards about fourteen inches long, thickly padded with cloth and felt, are connected by two wooden bows, and secured to a wooden crupper. From the bows hang loops of hide in which the packages are suspended, in such a way that if the burden strikes any obstacle in a dangerous pass, the package becomes detached and rolls away without overbalancing the animal. Horses, mules, and yaks are used for conveying the tea to Batang, where is the great depot and centre of the domestic trade.
To reach Batang from Assam our Indian tea would have to cross the Patkoi Hills to Burma, thence into Yun-nan, and so northward again by Weisee, a distance of seven hundred and fifty miles.
It is said that the cost of carriage alone would be more than the selling price of Chinese tea at Batang; but time, no doubt, would economize transit, and the Tibetans might be educated into paying a better price for better tea, if free-trade relations were only established between India and
Before leaving the subject, some interesting and little-known varieties of tea encountered by Mr. Baber may be mentioned. In the mountainous region of Kiating he discovered two remarkable varieties. The monks of Mount O-mi, or Mount O, use a plant which produces an infusion naturally sweet, and tasting, as brewed, just like coarse Congou with a large addition of brown sugar. This is natural tea-and-sugar. The plant is grown on the mountain-slopes near the monastery, and does not seem to be known elsewhere. The leaf is to all appearance just like that of an ordinary tea-leaf, and probably the saccharine essence may be due to the soil.
The other curiosity is a natural tea-and milk. This is a wild plant, growing in an elevated region without cultivation, and yielding an infusion which tastes just like tea and milk, without sugar, or perhaps more like tea and butter. This plant is found in an uninhabited region west of Kiating, at an elevation of six thousand feet and upwards, and in leafy shrubs about fifteen feet high. Not merely the leaf but the whole plant is used to make the infusion. Even the wood when chopped up and boiled along with a few dried leaves yields a strongly colored tea, with much the same flavor as the Tibetans produce from their bricks and butter. Botanists may be able to explain these phenomena, and perhaps to classify the plants in some other family than the teaplant.