The Man Whom the Trees Loved

Algernon Blackwood
The Man Whom the Trees Loved

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Title: The Man Whom the Trees Loved
Author: Algernon Blackwood
Release Date: February 29, 2004 [EBook #11377]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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I He painted trees as by some special divining instinct of their essential
qualities. He understood them. He knew why in an oak forest, for
instance, each individual was utterly distinct from its fellows, and why

no two beeches in the whole world were alike. People asked him down
to paint a favorite lime or silver birch, for he caught the individuality of
a tree as some catch the individuality of a horse. How he managed it
was something of a puzzle, for he never had painting lessons, his
drawing was often wildly inaccurate, and, while his perception of a
Tree Personality was true and vivid, his rendering of it might almost
approach the ludicrous. Yet the character and personality of that
particular tree stood there alive beneath his brush--shining, frowning,
dreaming, as the case might be, friendly or hostile, good or evil. It
There was nothing else in the wide world that he could paint; flowers
and landscapes he only muddled away into a smudge; with people he
was helpless and hopeless; also with animals. Skies he could
sometimes manage, or effects of wind in foliage, but as a rule he left
these all severely alone. He kept to trees, wisely following an instinct
that was guided by love. It was quite arresting, this way he had of
making a tree look almost like a being--alive. It approached the
"Yes, Sanderson knows what he's doing when he paints a tree!" thought
old David Bittacy, C.B., late of the Woods and Forests. "Why, you can
almost hear it rustle. You can smell the thing. You can hear the rain
drip through its leaves. You can almost see the branches move. It
grows." For in this way somewhat he expressed his satisfaction, half to
persuade himself that the twenty guineas were well spent (since his
wife thought otherwise), and half to explain this uncanny reality of life
that lay in the fine old cedar framed above his study table.
Yet in the general view the mind of Mr. Bittacy was held to be austere,
not to say morose. Few divined in him the secretly tenacious love of
nature that had been fostered by years spent in the forests and jungles
of the eastern world. It was odd for an Englishman, due possibly to that
Eurasian ancestor. Surreptitiously, as though half ashamed of it, he had
kept alive a sense of beauty that hardly belonged to his type, and was
unusual for its vitality. Trees, in particular, nourished it. He, also,
understood trees, felt a subtle sense of communion with them, born
perhaps of those years he had lived in caring for them, guarding,
protecting, nursing, years of solitude among their great shadowy
presences. He kept it largely to himself, of course, because he knew the

world he lived in. HE also kept it from his wife--to some extent. He
knew it came between them, knew that she feared it, was opposed. But
what he did not know, or realize at any rate, was the extent to which
she grasped the power which they wielded over his life. Her fear, he
judged, was simply due to those years in India, when for weeks at a
time his calling took him away from her into the jungle forests, while
she remained at home dreading all manner of evils that might befall
him. This, of course, explained her instinctive opposition to the passion
for woods that still influenced and clung to him. It was a natural
survival of those anxious days of waiting in solitude for his safe return.
For Mrs. Bittacy, daughter of an evangelical clergy-man, was a
self-sacrificing woman, who in most things found a happy duty in
sharing her husband's joys and sorrows to the point of self-obliteration.
Only in this matter of the trees she was less successful than in others. It
remained a problem difficult of compromise.
He knew, for instance, that what she objected to in this portrait of the
cedar on their lawn was really not the price he had given for it, but the
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