Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/629

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THE ORIGIN OF FRUITS.

seed-eating classes, such as the rodents, the bats, and the quadrumana, we find a profusion of color in many squirrels, flying-foxes, and monkeys; while Mr. Darwin does not hesitate in attributing to the same selective action the rosy cheeks, pearly teeth, blue eyes, and golden hair, of the human species.

Nor is it only in the choice of mates that the nascent taste for color displays itself. Even below the limits of humanity bright-hued objects afford a passing pleasure to more than one aesthetically-endowed species. Monkeys love to pull crimson flowers in pieces, dart in pursuit of brilliant tropical birds, and are attracted by the sight of red or yellow rags. Those queer little creatures, the bower-birds, carry the same feeling a step further by collecting fragments of brilliantly-colored objects to decorate their gaudy meeting-places. But, when we reach the race of man, we find the love of color producing far more conspicuous secondary results. The savage daubs his body with red or blue paint, and plants his garden with the scarlet hibiscus or the purple bougainvillia. Soon, with the rise of pottery and cloth-making, he learns the use of pigments and the art of dyeing. Next, painting proper follows, with all the decorative appliances of Egypt, India, China, and Japan, until at last our whole life comes to be passed in the midst of clothing and furniture, wall-papers and carpets, books and ornaments, vases and tiles, statuettes and pictures, every one of which has been specially prepared with dyes or pigments, to gratify the feeling originally derived from the contemplation of woodland berries by prehistoric man, or his frugivorous ancestors. And all these varied objects of civilized life may be traced back directly to the reaction of colored fruits upon the structure of the mammalian eye.

What a splendid and a noble prospect for humanity in its future evolutions may we not find in this thought that, from the coarse animal pleasure of beholding food, mankind has already developed, through delicate gradations, our modern disinterested love for the glories of sunset and the melting shades of ocean, for the gorgeous pageantry of summer flowers, and the dying beauty of autumn leaves, for the exquisite harmony which reposes on the canvas of Titian, and the golden haze which glimmers over the dreamy visions of Turner! If man, base as he yet is, can nevertheless rise to-day in his highest moments so far above his sensuous self, what may he not hope to achieve hereafter, under the hallowing influence of those chaster and purer aspirations which are welling up within him even now toward the perfect day!—Cornhill Magazine.