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.