Major Sandars and the doctor stood talking together beneath the shade of a silk-cotton tree, whose leaves seemed to keep off a portion of the heavy falling dew, and the former was waiting for an answer from his companion, who, however, did not speak. "Come, say something, doctor," exclaimed the major; "what do you think of affairs?"
Half way between the American camp and the city there was a beautiful ceiba-tree, or silk-cotton tree, so called from the large seed-pods, full of soft, cotton-like stuff. Under this tall, shady tree many important councils were held between the Spanish and American officers. And under this tree, one morning, our officers gave up eight Spanish prisoners in return for Lieutenant Hobson and his men.
Round the butt-end is wound a little mass from the silk-cotton tree, which exactly fits into the bore of the blow-pipe. The quivers were very neatly formed of the plaited strips of a plant growing wild, from which arrow-root is made.
As her father had said, she wasn't good at waiting; and so we all went up into the silk-cotton tree. This was an enormous tree, with roots like the partitions between horse-stalls; it stood at the bottom of the hotel grounds, and had a large platform built up among the branches, with a flight of steps leading to it. There were seats up here, and room enough for a dozen people.
About two or three inches from the thick end of the arrow Guapo wrapped lightly around the shaft some strands of the soft silky cotton, which he had procured from the pods of the great "ceiba," or silk-cotton tree, already mentioned.
At the top of the flight of stairs are open fields and an old fort. Altogether, this was considered a quiet and suitable place for a meeting of a band of revolutionists. We could not have met in the silk-cotton tree, for we should have attracted too much attention, and, besides, the hotel-clerk would have routed us out. After supper, Rectus and I went to see the African governor, Goliah Brown.
The silk-cotton grows on tender shrubs, 3 or 4 foot high, in cods as big as an apple, but of a long shape; which when ripe open at one end, parting leisurely into 4 quarters; and at the first opening the cotton breaks forth. It may be of use for stuffing of pillows, or the like, but else is of no value, any more than that of the great cotton-tree.
The pyingado, straight and smooth, often rises 150 feet before it puts forth a branch, and I have seen ponies stabled between the natural buttresses which support the huge trunk of the silk-cotton tree, sometimes 250 feet in height.
They feed, amongst other things, on the guava, the plantain, the rose-apple, and the fruit of the various fig-trees. Flying foxes are abundant in all the maritime districts, especially at the season when the pulum-imbul , one of the silk-cotton trees, is putting forth its flower-buds, of which they are singularly fond.
A spray of rose bush, laden with magnificent crimson blooms, swished to and fro before the window, swayed by the breeze, and wafted dashes of its scent-laden breath toward me; and beyond it there stretched a vista of flowering shrubs, orange and banana trees, the straight smooth stems of palms, part of the gigantic trunk of a silk-cotton tree springing from a smooth sward of guinea grass; and beyond it again a thicket of bamboo, the delicate feathery foliage of which closed the view.