No. 25.—The Sparrow.

SPARROWS ARE SMALL brown birds inhabiting sidewalk cafés and other known haunts of the primate Homo sapiens, where they subsist on the crumbs that drop from scones. An untutored observer might suppose that sparrows were indiscriminate in their gleanings, but in fact scones are the only food that will nourish them properly, and they will soon starve if they are offered nothing but bread crumbs or bits of cinnamon rolls. Evolutionary biologists speculate that sparrows evolved in parallel with scones from primitive muffin-eating ancestors—a speculation given some weight by the recent discovery in China of a well-preserved nest of the four-foot-tall proto-sparrow Eopasser surrounded by the skeletons of a dozen or more primitive Cretaceous muffins.

It is a well-known principle of theology that God provides for the sparrows (Luke 12:6), and many Old Testament scholars are of the opinion that the “manna” that sustained the Israelites in the desert, a substance with which the children of Israel were unfamiliar, was in fact the crumbs of scones dropped from heaven for the sustenance of the sparrows in their train, and only incidentally of benefit to the Israelites themselves. The provision ceased when, under Joshua, the Israelites established permanent hearths and learned to bake their own scones.

Allegorically, the sparrow represents Providence, the unceasing and unfailing goodness of the Deity, who provides scones even for his humblest creations.