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Natural Science
by [?]

But there was one episode in my career as a natural scientist–a career whose least details are brought back by the magic word, caterpillar– over which I still go hot with the sense of failure. This was an attempt to stuff a toad. I don’t know to this day if toads can be stuffed, but when our toad died he had to be commemorated in some way, and, failing a marble statue, it seemed good to stuff him. It was when we had got the skin off him that we began to realize our difficulties. I don’t know if you have had the skin of a fair-sized toad in your hand; if so, you will understand that our first feeling was one of surprise that a whole toad could ever have got into it. There seemed to be no shape about the thing at all. You could have carried it–no doubt we did, I have forgotten–in the back of a watch. But it had lost all likeness to a toad, and it was obvious that stuffing meant nothing to it.

Of course, little boys ought not to skin toads and carry geological hammers and deceive learned professors of botany; I know it is wrong. And of course caterpillars of the puss-moth variety oughtn’t to make faces at timid young thrushes. But it is just these things which make such pleasant memories afterwards– when professors and toads are departed, when the hammers lie rusty in the coal cellar, and when the young thrushes are grown up to be quite big birds. There are fortunate mortals who can always comfort themselves with a clich�. If any question arises as to the moral value of Racing, whether in war-time or in peace- time, they will murmur something about “improving the breed of horses,” and sleep afterwards with an easy conscience. To one who considers how many millions of people are engaged upon this important work, it is surprising that nothing more notable in the way of a super-horse has as yet emerged; one would have expected at least by this time something which combined the flying-powers of the hawk with the diving-powers of the seal. No doubt this is what the followers of the Colonel’s Late Wire are aiming at, and even if they have to borrow ten shillings from the till in the good cause, they feel that possibly by means of that very ten shillings Nature has approximated a little more closely to the desired animal. Supporters of Hunting, again, will tell you, speaking from inside knowledge, that “the fox likes it,” and one is left breathless at the thought of the altruism of the human race, which will devote so much time and money to amusing a small, bushy-tailed four-legged friend who might otherwise be bored. And the third member of the Triple Alliance, which has made England what it is, is Beer, and in support of Beer there is also a clich� ready. Talk to anybody about Intemperance, and he will tell you solemnly, as if this disposed of the trouble, that “one can just as easily be intemperate in other matters as in the matter of alcohol.” After which, it seems almost a duty to a broad-minded man to go out and get drunk.

It is, of course, true that we can be intemperate in eating as well as in drinking, but the results of the intemperance would appear to be different. After a fifth help of rice-pudding one does not become over-familiar with strangers, nor does an extra slice of ham inspire a man to beat his wife. After five pints of beer (or fifteen, or fifty) a man will “go anywhere in reason, but he won’t go home”; after five helps of rice-pudding, I imagine, home would seem to him the one- desired haven. The two intemperances may be equally blameworthy, but they are not equally offensive to the community. Yet for some reason over- eating is considered the mark of the beast, and over-drinking the mark of rather a fine fellow.