Science in Arcady

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Purchase of this book includes free trial access to where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: ON THE WINGS OP THE WIND. Of course, you know my friend the squirting cucumber. If you don't, that can be only because you've never looked in the right place to find him. On all waste ground outside most southern cities—Nice, Cannes, Florence: Eome, Algiers, Granada: Athens, Palermo, Tunis, where you will—the soil is thickly covered by dark trailing vines which bear on their branches a queer hairy green fruit, much like a common cucumber at that early stage of its existence when we know it best in the commercial form of pickled gherkins. As long as you don't interfere with them, these hairy green fruits do nothing out of the common in the way of personal aggressiveness. Like the model young lady of the books on etiquette, they don't speak unless they're spoken to. But if peradventure you chance to brush up against the plant accidentally, or you irritate it of set purpose with your foot or your cane, then, as Mr. Eider Haggard would say, ' a strange thing happens': off jumps the little green fruit with a startling bounce, and scatters its juice and pulp and seeds explosively through a hole in the end where the stem joined on to it. Theentire central part of the cucumber, in short (answering to the seeds and pulp of a ripe melon), squirts out elastically through the breach in the outer wall, leaving the hollow shell behind as a mere empty windbag. Naturally, the squirting cucumber knows its own business best, and is not without sufficient reasons of its own for this strange and, to some extent, unmannerly behaviour. By its queer trick of squirting, it manages to kill at least two birds with one stone. For, in the first place, the sudden elastic jump of the fruit frightens away browsing animals, such as goats and cattle. Those meditative ruminants are little accustomed to findi...
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