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Who, in the inusic of birds and bees,
DISTANCE OF THE SUN. IMAGINE a railway from here to the sun. How many hours is the sun from us? Why, if we were to send an infant in an express train, going a hundred miles an hour without making PLEASANT VISITS TO KEW GARDENS. 367
any stoppages, the infant would grow to be a boy, the boy would grow to be a man, the man would grow old and die, without reaching the sun; for it is distant, at this speed, more than a hundred years from us. But what is this compared to the distance of Neptune, one of the newly discovered planets ? Supposo there had been a person who started, by a railway, at the creation of Adam and Eve, to go from Neptune to the sun, at the rate of fifty miles an hour, he would not have got there yet; for Neptune is more than six thousand years from our earth. What an idea does this give us of the extent of creation !
PLEASANT VISITS TO KEW GARDENS,
No. 12. The north wind blows coldly over hill and valley
And one brown prospect opens round,
Upon the shaded hill-sides show. While many boys and girls crouch around the blazing fire, we will wrap ourselves warmly, and hasten away for a Christmas visit to Kew Gardens. It is true, we shall not see that verdure and beauty in the open grounds which we admired in the fairer seasons of the year ; yet we shall find, in the newly formed Museum, many things to please and instruct us.
The Museum is a small brick house, with its sides adorned with creeping plants. There will no doubt be a larger building in due time erected, suited to the increasing stores of curious objects brought together here. The present rooms contain a good selection of seeds, dried grasses, fruits, gums, roots, and wood; together with specimens of the uses to which they are ap. plied. They are placed in glass cases, ranged along the middle of the building, and against the walls.
As we enter, we find a large and singular collection of pine-cones, from the size of boys' marbles to that of a horse's head, The hard scales are the fruit of the tree, and contain the seed. Formerly cones were much used in medicine, though they are not now in repute. Just by are some gourds, which have been turned to good account in the bottles and snuffboxes made from them. In a small glass is a variety of apples of Sodom. These are a sort of galls, and, like all galls, arise from eggs laid by little flies. When an egg is laid in a stem or a leaf of a tree, the part swells into a kind of tumour. The egg soon sends out a caterpillar, which finds a house and food within, until it eats its way out and escapes as a winged insect. The outside of the gall when on the tree looks like a small red apple, but the inside is full of dust. Many a thirsty traveller has been tempted by the glossy and rich exterior to bite the apple, and has filled his mouth, not with a refreshing fruit, but with the bitter and black ashes of the inside. The trees which, produce these galls grow near the Dead Sea, as well as other parts; and as the wicked city of Sodom once stood on the spot, its name has been given to them. A large number of other galls are in the Museum, of different shapes,
sizes, and colour, brought from several parts of the world. From one kind, writing-ink is made. How much are we indebted to the little creatures which make these galls on the trees and shrubs, and thus enable us to con, verse with our absent friends!
But if insects aid us in some things, in others they do not appear to so much advantage. Here are specimens of timber which they have filled with holes through the hardest parts, They have most strangely eaten their way, and the lines they have formed are quite a picture. By the side of the wood are laid the little insect depredators. The white ants of India have destroyed chests of drawers, and other articles of furniture ; and the planks of many a noble ship have been so destroyed by another kind of tiny insect, as to cause it to founder beneath the deep waters. That case of gutta percha is sure to catch
Here are the wood and the gumthe material just as it comes to England, and the various articles into which it is made. At first, it was used for soles of shoes; it is now turned to account for finer and more namental purposes : picture-frames, flowerstands, ear-trumpets, cups, dishes, and a hun. dred other things are moulded from it, and some of them in forms the most beautiful. Little did the worthy physician who brought the first piece of gutta percha to England, imagine, that in a short time it would be well known throughout the land, and regarded as one of the most valuable vegetable substances possessed by man.
In one place, we see a group of skeletons of
leaves--their minute and delicate forms most tastefully arranged ; and in another, a variety of similar skeletons made to look as if fashioned of gold and silver, by the process called electrotyping
As we pass our eye in a new direction, we observe fancy mats made of Irish rye-straw, by female peasants in the county of Wexford, Ireland ; also wheat-straw curiously platted in twenty various ingenious ways. Cocoa-nut fibre made into brushes, mats, ropes, baskets, cloth, hats, and bonnets ; with the shells of the nut shaped into drinking-cups and pots. Teas-black, grey, and green from Assam, and China ; with brick-tea, like small cheeses, from Thibet. Vases, jars, and pans, which are made from the ground bark of the pottery tree, and may be put upon the hottest fire without cracking, might well pass for brown earthenware. Tobacco in leaf, or made into cigars, from Turkey, Florida, Havanna, Virginia, and other parts of the earth. There, too, are yellow wood, brown fustic, green and black ebony. Madder, saffron, and numerous other dye-stuffs, from which we obtain our brightest and brilliant, as well as our more sober colours, for the use of dyers and painters.
Now we are tempted to gaze upon a group of articles made of vegetable ivory, from New Grenada, which, for beauty, rival those carved from the finest elephants' tusks. Here is the head-dress of a Tahitian lady: the band or fillet for the brows is formed of the inner bark of the tree Hibiscus, while from it flows the curls to spread over the shoulders, cut from the cuticle or skin of a young cocoa-nut. The