[Written at 'The Downs', Crowborough in 1886]
An old beech tree had been broken off about five feet from the ground, and becoming hollow within, was filled with the decay of its own substance. In this wood - sorrel had taken root, and flower and leaf covered the space within, white flower and green leaf flourishing on old age. The wood-sorrel leaf, the triune leaf, is perhaps more lovely even than the flower, like a more delicately shaped clover of a tenderer green, and it lasts far on into the autumn. When the violet leaves are no more looked for, when the cowslips have gone, and the bluebells have left nothing behind them but their nodding seed-cases, still the wood-sorrel leaf stays on the mound, in shape and colour the same, and as plea-santly acid to the taste now under the ripening nuts as in May. At its coming it is folded almost like a green flower; at Midsummer, when you are gathering ferns, you find its trefoil deep under the boughs; it grows, too, in the crevices of the rock over the spring. The whortleberry leaves, that were green as the myrtle when the wood-sorrel was in bloom, have faded some-what now that their berries are ripening. Another beech has gone over, and lies at full length, a shattered tube, as it were, of timber; for it is so rotten within, and so hollow and bored, it is little else than bark. Others that stand are tubes on end, with rounded knot-holes, loved by the birds, that let air and moisture into the very heart of the wood. They are hardly safe in a strong wind. Others again, very large and much shorter, have sent up four trunks from one root, a little like a banyan, quadruple trees built for centuries, throw-ing abroad a vast roof of foliage, whose green in the midst of summer is made brown by sacks and sacks of beech nuts. These are the trees to camp by, and that are chosen by painters. The bark of the beech is itself a panel to study, spotted with velvet moss brown-green, made grey with close-grown lichen, stained with its own hues of growth, and toned by time. To these add bright sunlight and leaf shadow, the sudden lowering of tint as a cloud passes, the different aspects of the day and the evening, and the changes of rain and dry weather. You may look at the bark of a beech twenty times and always find it different. After crossing Virgil's Bridge in the deep coombe at the bottom of Marden Hill these great beeches begin, true woodland trees, and somehow more forest-like than the hundreds and hundreds of acres of fir trees that are called forest. There is another spirit among the beech trees; they look like deer and memories of old English life.