Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/633

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613
TO EAT AND TO BE EATEN.

law of to eat and to be eaten! The name of the creatures, who fondly imagine that this fair human form was spread as a banquet for them, is legion. Gnats, ticks, lice, mites, flies, fleas, mosquitoes, form a few of our temperate host, while in torrid regions they swarm in tenfold profusion and variety, causing the happy dwellers in the land of eternal summer to spend a considerable portion of their lazy days and nights in the monotonous labor of scratching, slapping, squirming, and perhaps occasionally swearing their jaw-breaking oaths at the torments which surround them.

And inside as well as outside man is a harvest-field for the midges. Worms of unpleasing variety infest him in every organ, troubling not alone the digestive region, but lying. hid in the firm flesh, the brain, even the eye. And that minute but multitudinous creature with which a pork diet furnishes him—the trichina—makes the whole body its home, and literally eats him up alive.

Nor has our economical mother Nature more mercy on her other gigantic creatures than upon man. They are all the prey of some special insects or other parasites. And not alone the great, but the small, for we perceive creatures visible only under the microscope that form the homes of still smaller parasites. It becomes, indeed, an unpleasant wonder what marvelous adaptations of animal life have been formed apparently for no other purpose than to batten and fatten upon and make miserable all larger creatures, for whose greater size they make up by vaster multitudes.

It is economy all. There must be no waste of organic material. If some suffer thereby, it is their misfortune. The law can not be set aside for special purposes. There are no good ends ever gained without certain unpleasant drawbacks. The end here to be gained is life—abounding, immeasurable life. To reach this result, no organic force can be spared, and if some have to scratch and squirm, still it will be found here, as in all Nature's economies, that the evil is small, the good attained great. She works by law alone, and a law of Nature is never laid aside because it happens to tread on some crippled creature's corns. Law is immutable, and will inevitably crush every laggard who is not strong enough or quick enough to get out of its path.

And when the animal dies, it dies not to drop at once into the dust whence it sprang. Its dead flesh is too valuable life-building material to be allowed to escape Nature's uses in any such hasty fashion. Complete death can only be reached by the road of life. The mineral world is too far off to be arrived at by a single downward step. Successive steps are necessary, and every step is a living form. What we call fermentation in plants is but a growth of new plants out of the stuff of old ones. And putrefaction in animals is but another form of the same process.

As we have seen a host of plants growing out of the ruins of the