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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 297 pages of information about The Actress in High Life.

She bowed low, in suppressing a laugh at this elaborate compliment, and said, “Will spring be so soon upon us?”

“In a fortnight you may gather the same flowers which at home you must wait for till May.”

“Not the same flowers,” said she, quickly.  “Portugal has a Flora peculiar to itself, embracing very few of our native British plants.  I am on my strong ground on this topic, being a pupil of Dr. Graham, who relieves his graver studies by striving to rival King Solomon in the knowledge of plants, ’from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on the wall.’  I am pledged to carry home a vast hortus siccus for him.”

“Oh! a scientific young lady—­perhaps a little of a blue-stocking, too,” said the colonel to himself.  “I must hash up a dish to suit her peculiar taste.  Though no botanist,” continued he aloud, “there is one plant that has strongly attracted my attention, and I recommend it to yours; though your hortus siccus will hardly contain a fair specimen of it.”

“What is that?” said she, on the qui vive to hear of some rare plant.

“It is the cork-oak,” said the colonel, solemnly.  “Its rough exterior has led tourists and artists, and even naturalists, to treat it with neglect, while it is daily contributing to the comfort, delight, and civilization of the world.”

“It may, perhaps,” said Lady Mabel, hesitating, “be said to do all that you attribute to it.”

“Does it not strike you as passing strange, Lady Mabel, (apropos to our subject, pray take a glass of wine with me,) that the Romans, who were, doubtless, a great and a wise people, should have been masters of Spain and Gaul, and of their forests of cork trees for centuries—­that these Romans,” continued he, growing eloquent on the subject, “who had the tree in their own country, though not, perhaps, in the full perfection of its cortical development, and did apply its bark to a number of useful purposes, including, occasionally, that of stoppers for vessels, should yet never have attained to the systematic use of it in corking their bottles!”

“Strange, indeed,” said Lady Mabel.  “It was shutting their eyes against the light of nature; for, we may say, that the obvious final end of the cork tree is to provide corks for bottles.”

“A great truth well expressed,” said the colonel.  “Such an oversight has hardly a parallel; unless it be in their invention of printing and never using it.  For we see, in the baker’s name, stamped on the loaves found in Pompeii, and words impressed on their pottery and other articles, what amounts to stereotype printing; yet they never went on to separate the individual letters, and so become compositors and printers in the usual sense of the art.  But they could certainly get on better without printing than without corks.”

“Undoubtedly.  For the world may—­indeed, has—­become too full of books; while there is little fear of its becoming too full of bottles; they get emptied and broken so fast.”

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