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    11. The Milk in the Coco-Nut

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    Chapter 12
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    For many centuries the occult problem how to account for the milk in the
    coco-nut has awakened the profoundest interest alike of ingenuous
    infancy and of maturer scientific age. Though it cannot be truthfully
    affirmed of it, as of the cosmogony or creation of the world, in the
    'Vicar of Wakefield,' that it 'has puzzled the philosophers of all ages'
    (for Sanchoniathon was certainly ignorant of the very existence of that
    delicious juice, and Manetho doubtless went to his grave without ever
    having tasted it fresh from the nut under a tropical verandah), yet it
    may be safely asserted that for the last three hundred years the
    philosopher who has not at some time or other of his life meditated upon
    that abstruse question is unworthy of such an exalted name. The
    cosmogony and the milk in the coco-nut are, however, a great deal closer
    together in thought than Sanchoniathon or Manetho, or the rogue who
    quoted them so glibly, is ever at all likely, in his wildest moments, to
    have imagined.

    The coco-nut, in fact, is a subject well deserving of the most
    sympathetic treatment at the gentle hands of grateful humanity. No other
    plant is useful to us in so many diverse and remarkable manners. It has
    been truly said of that friend of man, the domestic pig, that he is all
    good, from the end of his snout to the tip of his tail; but even the
    pig, though he furnishes us with so many necessaries or luxuries--from
    tooth-brushes to sausages, from ham to lard, from pepsine wine to pork
    pies--does not nearly approach, in the multiplicity and variety of his
    virtues, the all-sufficing and world-supplying coco-nut. A Chinese
    proverb says that there are as many useful properties in the coco-nut
    palm as there are days in the year; and a Polynesian saying tells us
    that the man who plants a coco-nut plants meat and drink, hearth and
    home, vessels and clothing, for himself and his children after him. Like
    the great Mr. Whiteley, the invaluable palm-tree might modestly
    advertise itself as a universal provider. The solid part of the nut
    supplies food almost alone to thousands of people daily, and the milk
    serves them for drink, thus acting as an efficient filter to the water
    absorbed by the roots in the most polluted or malarious regions. If you
    tap the flower stalk you get a sweet juice, which can be boiled down
    into the peculiar sugar called (in the charming dialect of commerce)
    jaggery; or it can be fermented into a very nasty spirit known as
    palm-wine, toddy, or arrack; or it can be mixed with bitter herbs and
    roots to make that delectable compound 'native beer.' If you squeeze the
    dry nut you get coco-nut oil, which is as good as lard for frying when
    fresh, and is 'an excellent substitute for butter at breakfast,' on
    tropical tables. Under the mysterious name of copra (which most of us
    have seen with awe described in the market reports as 'firm' or 'weak,'
    'receding' or 'steady') it forms the main or only export of many Oceanic
    islands, and is largely imported into this realm of England, where the
    thicker portion is called stearine, and used for making sundry candles
    with fanciful names, while the clear oil is employed for burning in
    ordinary lamps. In the process of purification, it yields glycerine; and
    it enters largely into the manufacture of most better-class soaps. The
    fibre that surrounds the nut makes up the other mysterious article of
    commerce known as coir, which is twisted into stout ropes, or woven into
    coco-nut matting and ordinary door-mats. Brushes and brooms are also
    made of it, and it is used, not always in the most honest fashion, in
    place of real horse-hair in stuffing cushions. The shell, cut in half,
    supplies good cups, and is artistically carved by the Polynesians,
    Japanese, Hindoos, and other benighted heathen, who have not yet learnt
    the true methods of civilised machine-made shoddy manufacture. The
    leaves serve as excellent thatch; on the flat blades, prepared like
    papyrus, the most famous Buddhist manuscripts are written; the long
    mid-ribs or branches (strictly speaking, the leaf-stalks) answer
    admirably for rafters, posts, or fencing; the fibrous sheath at the base
    is a remarkable natural imitation of cloth, employed for strainers,
    wrappers, and native hats; while the trunk, or stem, passes in carpentry
    under the name of porcupine wood, and produces beautiful effects as a
    wonderfully coloured cabinet-makers' material. These are only a few
    selected instances out of the innumerable uses of the coco-nut palm.

    Apart even from the manifold merits of the tree that bears it, the milk
    itself has many and great claims to our respect and esteem, as everybody
    who has ever drunk it in its native surroundings will enthusiastically
    admit. In England, to be sure, the white milk in the dry nuts is a very
    poor stuff, sickly, and strong-flavoured, and rather indigestible. But
    in the tropics, coco-nut milk, or, as we oftener call it there, coco-nut
    water, is a very different and vastly superior sort of beverage. At
    eleven o'clock every morning, when you are hot and tired with the day's
    work, your black servant, clad from head to foot in his cool clean white
    linen suit, brings you in a tall soda glass full of a clear, light,
    crystal liquid, temptingly displayed against the yellow background of a
    chased Benares brass-work tray. The lump of ice bobs enticingly up and
    down in the centre of the tumbler, or clinks musically against the edge
    of the glass as he carries it along. You take the cool cup thankfully
    and swallow it down at one long draught; fresh as a May morning, pure as
    an English hillside spring, delicate as--well, as coco-nut water. None
    but itself can be its parallel. It is certainly the most delicious,
    dainty, transparent, crystal drink ever invented. How did it get there,
    and what is it for?

    In the early green stage at which coco-nuts are generally picked for
    household use in the tropics the shell hasn't yet solidified into a hard
    stony coat, but still remains quite soft enough to be readily cut
    through with a sharp table knife--just like young walnuts picked for
    pickling. If you cut one across while it's in this unsophisticated
    state, it is easy enough to see the arrangement of the interior, and the
    part borne by the milk in the development and growth of the mature nut.
    The ordinary tropical way of opening coco-nuts for table, indeed, is by
    cutting off the top of the shell and rind in successive slices, at the
    end where the three pores are situated, until you reach the level of the
    water, which fills up the whole interior. The nutty part around the
    inside of the shell is then extremely soft and jelly-like, so that it
    can be readily eaten with a spoon; but as a matter of fact very few
    people ever do eat the flesh at all. After their first few months in the
    tropics, they lose the taste for this comparatively indigestible part,
    and confine themselves entirely (like patients at a German spa) to
    drinking the water. A young coco-nut is thus seen to consist, first of a
    green outer skin, then of a fibrous coat, which afterwards becomes the
    hair, and next of a harder shell which finally gets quite woody; while
    inside all comes the actual seed or unripe nut itself. The office of the
    coco-nut water is the deposition of the nutty part around the side of
    the shell; it is, so to speak, the mother liquid, from which the harder
    eatable portion is afterwards derived. This state is not uncommon in
    embryo seeds. In a very young pea, for example, the inside is quite
    watery, and only the outer skin is at all solid, as we have all observed
    when green peas first come into season. But the special peculiarity of
    the coco-nut consists in the fact that this liquid condition of the
    interior continues even after the nut is ripe, and that is the really
    curious point about the milk in the coco-nut which does actually need
    accounting for.

    In order to understand it one ought to examine a coco-nut in the act of
    budding, and to do this it is by no means necessary to visit the West
    Indies or the Pacific Islands; all you need to do is to ask a Covent
    Garden fruit salesman to get you a few 'growers.' On the voyage to
    England, a certain number of precocious coco-nuts, stimulated by the
    congenial warmth and damp of most shipholds, usually begin to sprout
    before their time; and these waste nuts are sold by the dealers at a low
    rate to East-end children and inquiring botanists. An examination of a
    'grower' very soon convinces one what is the use of the milk in the
    coco-nut.

    It must be duly borne in mind, to begin with, that the prime end and
    object of the nut is not to be eaten raw by the ingenious monkey, or to
    be converted by lordly man into coco-nut biscuits, or coco-nut pudding,
    but simply and solely to reproduce the coco-nut palm in sufficient
    numbers to future generations. For this purpose the nut has slowly
    acquired by natural selection a number of protective defences against
    its numerous enemies, which serve to guard it admirably in the native
    state from almost all possible animal depredators. First of all, the
    actual nut or seed itself consists of a tiny embryo plant, placed just
    inside the softest of the three pores or pits at the end of the shell,
    and surrounded by a vast quantity of nutritious pulp, destined to feed
    and support it during its earliest unprotected days, if not otherwise
    diverted by man or monkey. But as whatever feeds a young plant will also
    feed an animal, and as many animals betray a felonious desire to
    appropriate to their own wicked ends the food-stuffs laid up by the palm
    for the use of its own seedling, the coco-nut has been compelled to
    inclose this particularly large and rich kernel in a very solid and
    defensive shell. And, once more, since the palm grows at a very great
    height from the ground--I have seen them up to ninety feet in favourable
    circumstances--this shell stands a very good chance of getting broken in
    tumbling to the earth, so that it has been necessary to surround it with
    a mass of soft and yielding fibrous material, which breaks its fall, and
    acts as a buffer to it when it comes in contact with the soil beneath.
    So many protections has the coco-nut gradually devised for itself by the
    continuous survival of the best adapted amid numberless and endless
    spontaneous variations of all its kind in past time.

    Now, when the coco-nut has actually reached the ground at last, and
    proceeds to sprout in the spot where chance (perhaps in the bodily shape
    of a disappointed monkey) has chosen to cast it, these numerous
    safeguards and solid envelopes naturally begin to prove decided
    nuisances to the embryo within. It starts under the great disadvantage
    of being hermetically sealed within a solid wooden shell, so that no
    water can possibly get at it to aid it as most other seeds are aided in
    the process of germination. Fancy yourself a seed-pea, anxious to
    sprout, but coated all round with a hard covering of impermeable
    sealing-wax, and you will be in a position faintly to appreciate the
    unfortunate predicament of a grower coco-nut. Natural selection,
    however--that _deus ex machinâ_ of modern science, which can perform
    such endless wonders, if only you give it time enough to work in and
    variations enough to work upon--natural selection has come to the rescue
    of the unhappy plant by leaving it a little hole at the top of the
    shell, out of which it can push its feathery green head without
    difficulty. Everybody knows that if you look at the sharp end of a
    coco-nut you will see three little brown pits or depressions on its
    surface. Most people also know that two of these are firmly stopped up
    (for a reason to which I shall presently recur), but that the third one
    is only closed by a slight film or very thin shell, which can be easily
    bored through with a pocket knife, so as to let the milk run off before
    cracking the shell. So much we have all learnt during our ardent pursuit
    of natural knowledge on half-holidays in early life. But we probably
    then failed to observe that just opposite this soft hole lies a small
    roundish knob, imbedded in the pulp or eatable portion, which knob is in
    fact the embryo palm or seedling, for whose ultimate benefit the whole
    arrangement (in brown and green) has been invented. That is very much
    the way with man: he notices what concerns his own appetite, and omits
    all the really important parts of the whole subject. _We_ think the use
    of the hole is to let out the milk; but the nut knows that its real
    object is to let out the seedling. The knob grows out at last into the
    young plantlet, and it is by means of the soft hole that it makes its
    escape through the shell to the air and the sunshine which it seeks
    without. This brings us really down at last to the true _raison d'être_
    for the milk in the coco-nut. As the seed or kernel cannot easily get at
    much water from outside, it has a good supply of water laid up for it
    ready beforehand within its own encircling shell. The mother liquid from
    which the pulp or nutty part has been deposited remains in the centre,
    as the milk, till the tiny embryo begins to sprout. As soon as it does
    so, the little knob which was at first so very small enlarges rapidly
    and absorbs the water, till it grows out into a big spongy cellular
    mass, which at last almost fills up the entire shell. At the same time,
    its other end pushes its way out through the soft hole, and then gives
    birth to a growing bud at the top--the future stem and leaves--and to a
    number of long threads beneath--the future roots. Meanwhile, the spongy
    mass inside begins gradually to absorb all the nutty part, using up its
    oils and starches for the purpose of feeding the young plant above,
    until it is of an age to expand its leaves to the open tropical sunlight
    and shift for itself in the struggle for life. It seems at first sight
    very hard to understand how any tissue so solid as the pulp of coco-nut
    can be thus softened and absorbed without any visible cause; but in the
    subtle chemistry of living vegetation such a transformation is
    comparatively simple and easy to perform. Nature sometimes works much
    greater miracles than this in the same way: for example, what is called
    vegetable ivory, a substance so solid that it can be carved or turned
    only with great difficulty, is really the kernel of another palm-nut,
    allied to the coco-palm, and its very stony particles are all similarly
    absorbed during germination by the dissolving power of the young
    seedling.

    Why, however, has the coco-nut three pores at the top instead of one,
    and why are two out of the three so carefully and firmly sealed up? The
    explanation of this strange peculiarity is only to be found in the
    ancestral history of the coco-nut kind. Most nuts, indeed, start in
    their earlier stage as if they meant to produce two or more seeds each;
    but as they ripen, all the seeds except one become abortive. The almond,
    for example, has in the flower two seeds or kernels to each nut; but in
    the ripe state there is generally only one, though occasionally we find
    an almond with two--a philipoena, as we commonly call it--just to
    keep in memory the original arrangement of its earlier ancestors. The
    reason for this is that plants whose fruits have no special protection
    for their seeds are obliged to produce a great many of them at once, in
    order that one seed in a thousand may finally survive the onslaughts of
    their Argus-eyed enemies; but when they learn to protect themselves by
    hard coverings from birds and beasts, they can dispense with some of
    these supernumerary seeds, and put more nutriment into each one of those
    that they still retain. Compare, for example, the innumerable small
    round seedlets of the poppyhead with the solitary large and richly
    stored seed of the walnut, or the tiny black specks of mustard and cress
    with the single compact and well-filled seed of the filbert and the
    acorn. To the very end, however, most nuts begin in the flower as if
    they meant to produce a whole capsuleful of small unstored and
    unprotected seeds, like their original ancestors; it is only at the last
    moment that they recollect themselves, suppress all their ovules except
    one, and store that one with all the best and oiliest food-stuffs at
    their disposal. The nuts, in fact, have learned by long experience that
    it is better to be the only son and heir of a wealthy house, set up in
    life with a good capital to begin upon, than to be one of a poor family
    of thirteen needy and unprovided children.

    Now, the coco-nuts are descended from a great tribe--the palms and
    lilies--which have as their main distinguishing peculiarity the
    arrangement of parts in their flowers and fruits by threes each. For
    example, in the most typical flowers of this great group, there are
    three green outer calyx-pieces, three bright-coloured petals, three long
    outer stamens, three short inner stamens, three valves to the capsule,
    and three seeds or three rows of seeds in each fruit. Many palms still
    keep pretty well to this primitive arrangement, but a few of them which
    have specially protected or highly developed fruits or nuts have lost in
    their later stages the threefold disposition in the fruit, and possess
    only one seed, often a very large one. There is no better and more
    typical nut in the whole world than a coco-nut--that is to say, from our
    present point of view at least, though the fear of that awful person,
    the botanical Smelfungus, compels me to add that this is not quite
    technically true. Smelfungus, indeed, would insist upon it that the
    coco-nut is not a nut at all, and would thrill us with the delightful
    information, innocently conveyed in that delicious dialect of which he
    is so great a master, that it is really 'a drupaceous fruit with a
    fibrous mesocarp.' Still, in spite of Smelfungus with his nice
    hair-splitting distinctions, it remains true that humanity at large will
    still call a nut a nut, and that the coco-nut is the highest known
    development of the peculiar nutty tactics. It has the largest and most
    richly stored seed of any known plant; and this seed is surrounded by
    one of the hardest and most unmanageable of any known shells. Hence the
    coco-nut has readily been able to dispense with the three kernels which
    each nut used in its earlier and less developed days to produce. But
    though the palm has thus taken to reducing the number of its seeds in
    each fruit to the lowest possible point consistent with its continued
    existence at all, it still goes on retaining many signs of its ancient
    threefold arrangement. The ancestral and most deeply ingrained habits
    persist in the earlier stages; it is only in the mature form that the
    later acquired habits begin fully to predominate. Even so our own boys
    pass through an essentially savage childhood of ogres and fairies, bows
    and arrows, sugar-plums and barbaric nursery tales, as well as a
    romantic boyhood of mediæval chivalry and adventure, before they steady
    down into that crowning glory of our race, the solid, sober,
    matter-of-fact, commercial British Philistine. Hence the coco-nut in its
    unstripped state is roughly triangular in form, its angles answering to
    the separate three fruits of simpler palms; and it has three pits or
    weak places in the shell, through which the embryos of the three
    original kernels used to force their way out. But as only one of them is
    now needed, that one alone is left soft; the other two, which would be
    merely a source of weakness to the plant if unprotected, are covered in
    the existing nut by harder shell. Doubtless they serve in part to
    deceive the too inquisitive monkey or other enemy, who probably
    concludes that if one of the pits is hard and impermeable, the other two
    are so likewise.

    Though I have now, I hope, satisfactorily accounted for the milk in the
    coco-nut, and incidentally for some other matters in its economy as
    well, I am loth to leave the young seedling whom I have brought so far
    on his way to the tender mercies of the winds and storms and tropical
    animals, some of whom are extremely fond of his juicy and delicate
    shoots. Indeed, the growing point or bud of most palms is a very
    pleasant succulent vegetable, and one kind--the West Indian mountain
    cabbage--deserves a better and more justly descriptive name, for it is
    really much more like seakale or asparagus. I shall try to follow our
    young seedling on in life, therefore, so as to give, while I am about
    it, a fairly comprehensive and complete biography of a single
    flourishing coco-nut palm.

    Beginning, then, with the fall of the nut from the parent-tree, the
    troubles of the future palm confront it at once in the shape of the
    nut-eating crab. This evil-disposed crustacean is common around the
    sea-coast of the eastern tropical islands, which is also the region
    mainly affected by the coco-nut palm; for coco-nuts are essentially
    shore-loving trees, and thrive best in the immediate neighbourhood of
    the sea. Among the fallen nuts, the clumsy-looking thief of a crab (his
    appropriate Latin name is _Birgus latro_) makes great and dreaded havoc.
    To assist him in his unlawful object he has developed a pair of front
    legs, with specially strong and heavy claws, supplemented by a last or
    tail-end pair armed only with very narrow and slender pincers. He
    subsists entirely upon a coco-nut diet. Setting to work upon a big
    fallen nut--with the husk on, coco-nuts measure in the raw state about
    twelve inches the long way--he tears off all the coarse fibre bit by
    bit, and gets down at last to the hard shell. Then he hammers away with
    his heavy claw on the softest eye-hole till he has pounded an opening
    right through it. This done he twists round his body so as to turn his
    back upon the coco-nut he is operating upon (crabs are never famous
    either for good manners or gracefulness) and proceeds awkwardly but
    effectually to extract all the white kernel or pulp through the breach
    with his narrow pair of hind pincers. Like man, too, the robber-crab
    knows the value of the outer husk as well as of the eatable nut itself,
    for he collects the fibre in surprising quantities to line his burrow,
    and lies upon it, the clumsy sybarite, for a luxurious couch. Alas,
    however, for the helplessness of crabs, and the rapacity and cunning of
    all-appropriating man! The spoil-sport Malay digs up the nest for the
    sake of the fibre it contains, which spares him the trouble of picking
    junk on his own account, and then he eats the industrious crab who has
    laid it all up, while he melts down the great lump of fat under the
    robber's capacious tail, and sometimes gets from it as much as a good
    quart of what may be practically considered as limpid coco-nut oil. _Sic
    vos non vobis_ is certainly the melancholy refrain of all natural
    history. The coco-nut palm intends the oil for the nourishment of its
    own seedling; the crab feloniously appropriates it and stores it up
    under his capacious tail for future personal use; the Malay steals it
    again from the thief for his own purposes; and ten to one the Dutch or
    English merchant beguiles it from him with sized calico or poisoned rum,
    and transmits it to Europe, where it serves to lighten our nights and
    assist at our matutinal tub, to point a moral and adorn the present
    tale.

    If, however, our coco-nut is lucky enough to escape the robber-crabs,
    the pigs, and the monkeys, as well as to avoid falling into the hands of
    man, and being converted into the copra of commerce, or sold from a
    costermonger's barrow in the chilly streets of ungenial London at a
    penny a slice, it may very probably succeed in germinating after the
    fashion I have already described, and pushing up its head through the
    surrounding foliage to the sunlight above. As a rule, the coco-nut has
    been dropped by its mother tree on the sandy soil of a sea-beach; and
    this is the spot it best loves, and where it grows to the stateliest
    height. Sometimes, however, it falls into the sea itself, and then the
    loose husk buoys it up, so that it floats away bravely till it is cast
    by the waves upon some distant coral reef or desert island. It is this
    power of floating and surviving a long voyage that has dispersed the
    coco-nut so widely among oceanic islands, where so few plants are
    generally to be found. Indeed, on many atolls or isolated reefs (for
    example, on Keeling Island) it is the only tree or shrub that grows in
    any quantity, and on it the pigs, the poultry, the ducks, and the land
    crabs of the place entirely subsist. In any case, wherever it happens to
    strike, the young coco-nut sends up at first a fine rosette of big
    spreading leaves, not raised as afterwards on a tall stem, but springing
    direct from the ground in a wide circle, something like a very big and
    graceful fern. In this early stage nothing can be more beautiful or more
    essentially tropical in appearance than a plantation of young coco-nuts.
    Their long feathery leaves spreading out in great clumps from the buried
    stock, and waving with lithe motion before the strong sea-breeze of the
    Indies, are the very embodiment of those deceptive ideal tropics which,
    alas, are to be found in actual reality nowhere on earth save in the
    artificial palm-houses at Kew, and the Casino Gardens at too entrancing
    Monte Carlo.

    For the first two or three years the young palms must be well watered,
    and the soil around them opened; after which the tall graceful stem
    begins to rise rapidly into the open air. In this condition it may be
    literally said to make the tropics--those fallacious tropics, I mean, of
    painters and poets, of Enoch Arden and of Locksley Hall. You may observe
    that whenever an artist wants to make a tropical picture, he puts a
    group of coco-nut palms in the foreground, as much as to say, 'You see
    there's no deception; these are the genuine unadulterated tropics.' But
    as to painting the tropics without the palms, he might just as well
    think of painting the desert without the camels. At eight or ten years
    old the tree flowers, bearing blossoms of the ordinary palm type,
    degraded likenesses of the lilies and yuccas, greenish and
    inconspicuous, but visited by insects for the sake of their pollen. The
    flower, however, is fertilised by the wind, which carries the pollen
    grains from one bunch of blossoms to another. Then the nuts gradually
    swell out to an enormous size, and ripen very slowly, even under the
    brilliant tropical sun. (I will admit that the tropics are hot, though
    in other respects I hold them to be arrant impostors, like that
    precocious American youth who announced on his tenth birthday that in
    his opinion life wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.) But the worst
    thing about the coco-nut palm, the missionaries always say, is the
    fatal fact that, when once fairly started, it goes on bearing fruit
    uninterruptedly for forty years. This is very immoral and wrong of the
    ill-conditioned tree, because it encourages the idyllic Polynesian to
    lie under the palms, all day long, cooling his limbs in the sea
    occasionally, sporting with Amaryllis in the shade, or with the tangles
    of Neæra's hair, and waiting for the nuts to drop down in due time, when
    he ought (according to European notions) to be killing himself with hard
    work under a blazing sky, raising cotton, sugar, indigo, and coffee, for
    the immediate benefit of the white merchant, and the ultimate advantage
    of the British public. It doesn't enforce habits of steady industry and
    perseverance, the good missionaries say; it doesn't induce the native to
    feel that burning desire for Manchester piece-goods and the other
    blessings of civilisation which ought properly to accompany the
    propagation of the missionary in foreign parts. You stick your nut in
    the sand; you sit by a few years and watch it growing; you pick up the
    ripe fruits as they fall from the tree; and you sell them at last for
    illimitable red cloth to the Manchester piece-goods merchant. Nothing
    could be more simple or more satisfactory. And yet it is difficult to
    see the precise moral distinction between the owner of a coco-nut grove
    in the South Sea Islands and the owner of a coal-mine or a big estate in
    commercial England. Each lounges decorously through life after his own
    fashion; only the one lounges in a Russia leather chair at a club in
    Pall Mall, while the other lounges in a nice soft dust-heap beside a
    rolling surf in Tahiti or the Hawaiian Archipelago.

    Curiously enough, at a little distance from the sandy levels or alluvial
    flats of the sea-shore, the sea-loving coco-nut will not bring its nuts
    to perfection. It will grow, indeed, but it will not thrive or fruit in
    due season. On the coast-line of Southern India, immense groves of
    coco-nuts fringe the shore for miles and miles together; and in some
    parts, as in Travancore, they form the chief agricultural staple of the
    whole country. 'The State has hence facetiously been called
    Coconutcore,' says its historian; which charmingly illustrates the true
    Anglo-Indian notion of what constitutes facetiousness, and ought to
    strike the last nail into the coffin of a competitive examination
    system. A good tree in full bearing should produce 120 coco-nuts in a
    season; so that a very small grove is quite sufficient to maintain a
    respectable family in decency and comfort. Ah, what a mistake the
    English climate made when it left off its primitive warmth of the
    tertiary period, and got chilled by the ice and snow of the Glacial
    Epoch down to its present misty and dreary wheat-growing condition! If
    it were not for that, those odious habits of steady industry and
    perseverance might never have been developed in ourselves at all, and we
    might be lazily picking copra off our own coco-palms, to this day, to
    export in return for the piece-goods of some Arctic Manchester situated
    somewhere about the north of Spitzbergen or the New Siberian Islands.

    Even as things stand at the present day, however, it is wonderful how
    much use we modern Englishmen now make in our own houses of this far
    Eastern nut, whose very name still bears upon its face the impress of
    its originally savage origin. From morning to night we never leave off
    being indebted to it. We wash with it as old brown Windsor or glycerine
    soap the moment we leave our beds. We walk across our passages on the
    mats made from its fibre. We sweep our rooms with its brushes, and wipe
    our feet on it as we enter our doors. As rope, it ties up our trunks and
    packages; in the hands of the housemaid it scrubs our floors; or else,
    woven into coarse cloth, it acts as a covering for bales and furniture
    sent by rail or steamboat. The confectioner undermines our digestion in
    early life with coco-nut candy; the cook tempts us later on with
    coco-nut cake; and Messrs. Huntley and Palmer cordially invite us to
    complete the ruin with coco-nut biscuits. We anoint our chapped hands
    with one of its preparations after washing; and grease the wheels of our
    carriages with another to make them run smoothly. Finally, we use the
    oil to burn in our reading lamps, and light ourselves at last to bed
    with stearine candles. Altogether, an amateur census of a single small
    English cottage results in the startling discovery that it contains
    twenty-seven distinct articles which owe their origin in one way or
    another to the coco-nut palm. And yet we affect in our black ingratitude
    to despise the question of the milk in the coco-nut.
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