Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/509

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493
USEFUL THINGS.

means of greater strategy, should entrap and imprison it in an iron cage and bring it to Marseilles! The lion disembarked at the dock would fetch many thousand francs.

If, by means of still more skilful and longer-continued labor, a lion-tamer, like Batty, subdues the dread monster, the lion would fetch thirty thousand francs at least. Nature creates a devouring animal: human skill converts it into a bread-winner.

The whole race of domesticated animals in man's service, yielding him eggs, milk, wool, and even flesh, was wild at first, that is to say, was so far separated from, as to be of no use to him. By his skill he not only tamed these animals, but, as it were, he has modified and re-modelled them after a pattern supplied by himself.

Man fashions at will draught-horses and racers, oxen for the plough and oxen for the table, sheep which furnish wool and sheep which furnish tallow, fowls which lay eggs and fowls which are fitted for the spit, fat pigs and lean pigs: from one breed of dogs, man has produced the greyhound and the bull-dog, the setter and the harrier, the pointer and the lapdog. When you go to an exhibition of any sort of live animals, remember that art has as great and Nature as little a share in it as in an exhibition of pictures.

Apply the same method of reasoning to all agricultural, arboricultural, and horticultural exhibitions. Neither our gardens, our fields, nor our woods, are masterpieces of Nature, as is ignorantly said; they are masterpieces of human industry.

All double flowers, without exception, are man's work. Pluck a wild rose from a hedge-row, and then go and see a collection of Verdier's roses: you will learn how much Nature has bestowed, and what man has made of it.

All the pulpy and juicy edible fruits are man's work. Man went as far as Asia, and even farther, in quest of the coarse products which resemble our peaches, our cherries, our pears, as much as the wild-rose resembles the "Palace of Crystal" or the "Remembrance of Malmaison" rose.

Each of our vegetables represents not only distant voyages, but also centuries of skilled labor and assiduous elaboration.

It was not Nature that gave the potato to the poor of our land. Human industry went in quest of it to America, and has cultivated, modified, ameliorated, varied, and brought it step by step to its present state, accomplishing the result in less than a century. Yet to this century of culture must be added the prior labor bestowed on the plant by the natives of America. When the products of a distant country are brought to us, we are prone to believe that Nature alone has done every thing. But, when the Spaniards discovered America, it had been cultivated from time immemorial. Hence man had turned Nature to his advantage there, as well as in Europe and elsewhere.

Wheat, such as we see it, is not a gift of Nature. It grows spon-