Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/630

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waste. She invites a guest with a special appetite for every morsel—guests furnished with teeth to rend, nip, and gnaw, claws to tear, augers and chisels to bore and gouge, saws, drills, punches, and suction tubes—that no fragment of the feast shall be left on the unswept tables.

There are guests of every shape, size, and description, alike only in the one particular of being normally hungry. Like the sitters-down at a public dinner, they all seem to have been saving up appetite for the occasion. Some there are, indeed, of such omnivorous tastes that we would be quite willing to have them left out from the general invitation. But that is not Dame Nature's way. Every crumb must be eaten; and we know little of her facility of invention if we imagine that she can not find a tooth for every hard morsel. She is ready for any such emergency, and you will be bound to find some queer creature gnawing away at the indigestible fragment with as much zest as if it were a dish fit for a king.

Let us take a sly glance in at Nature's kitchen and watch her guests at their meal. We shall not call it breakfast, dinner, supper, or lunch, for there is no such formal division. It is a whole-day feast, and a whole-night feast, too, for that matter. The tables are always spread, the guests always hungry; they crowd in from high-ways and by-ways; always one ready to take up every vacant knife, fork, and spoon; or to plunge in with fingers, teeth, and claws, in the true primitive fashion.

Nature does her cooking by sunlight. The great, glaring sun is her cook-stove, and by its aid she concocts, from such materials as water, carbonic acid, and ammonia, various palatable dishes, such as sugar, bread, fruits, greens, and a host of similar delicacies.

"There is your dinner," she says, "make yourselves at home." And so they do, without waiting to hear the dinner-bell; rich and poor, high and low; the dainty epicureans confining themselves to the fruits and seeds; others feasting on the green leaves and the lush grasses. But these are only the nobility, those who sit above the salt. The commonalty are more greedy and less particular. They bore in and saw in and dig in. Leaf and flower and fruit, branch and stem and root, each has its epicures. Some take a mean advantage by laying their eggs in the heart of rosy apple or luscious pear, so that their babes may revel in a perfect mountain of provender. There they lie, odd little white worms, like the chap who wished that Lake Superior was all ice-cream, and he plunged into its midst and condemned to eat his way out.

It has been no trifling task to lift that lofty tree or that broad field of waving grain up out of the lifeless world, and Nature is bound to make it pay its full duty to the world of life before it drops back again. It is her business to set going all the variety and abundance of life possible, and tree, grass, and grain must furnish food for