NCLE PAUL had just cut down a
"Come quick," he called, "come; the
The children burst out laughing.
"And what does the old
"Look here, at the cut which I was careful to make very clean with the ax. Don't you see some rings in the wood, rings which begin around the marrow and keep getting larger and larger until they reach the bark?"
"I see them," Jules replied; "they are rings fitted one inside another."
"It looks a little like the circles that come just after throwing a stone into the water," remarked Claire.
"I see them too by looking closely," chimed in Emile.
"I must tell you," continued Uncle Paul, "that those circles
are called annual layers. Why annual, if you please? Because
one is formed every year; one only, understand, neither more
nor less. The learned who spend their lives studying plants,
and who are called botanists, tell us that no doubt is
possible on that point. From the moment the little tree
springs from the seed to the time when the old tree dies,
every year there is formed a ring, a layer of wood. This
understood, let us count the layers of our
Uncle Paul took a pin to guide his counting; Emile, Jules,
and Claire looked on attentively. One, two, three, four,
five—They counted thus up to
"The trunk has
"That is not very hard," answered Jules, "after what you
have just told us. As it makes one ring every year, and we
"Eh! Eh! what did I tell you?" cried Uncle Paul, in triumph.
"Has not the
"What a singular thing!" Jules exclaimed. "You can know the age of a tree as if you saw its birth. You count the layers of wood; so many layers, so many years. One must be with you, Uncle, to learn those things. And the other trees, oak, beech, chestnut, do they do the same?"
"Absolutely the same. In our country every tree counts one year for each layer. Count its layers and you have its age."
"Oh! how sorry I am I did not know that the other day," put in Emile, "when they cut down the big beech which was in the way on the edge of the road. Oh, my! What a fine tree! It covered a whole field with its branches. It must have been very old."
"Not very," said Uncle Paul. "I counted its layers; it had one hundred and seventy."
"One hundred and seventy, Uncle Paul! Honest and truly?"
"Honest and truly, my little friend, one hundred and seventy."
"Then the beech was a hundred and seventy years old," said
Jules. "Is it possible? A tree to grow so old! And no doubt
it would have lived many years longer if the
"For us, a hundred and seventy years would certainly be a great age," assented his uncle; "no one lives so long. For a tree it is very little. Let us sit down in the shade. I have more to tell you about the age of trees."