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path constructs a bridge in a line of web patiently waiting till the wind conveys the glutinous thread in the direction it wishes to go ; and when the thread adheres, the spider tests its strength and tension before venturing, and when it does cross over, it takes care to construct a supplementary bridge by which to return in case of the breaking down of the other. What skill and perseverance is exhibited in the construction of the beautiful web of the common garden spider, who in less than three-quarters of an hour will construct a net of fourteen or sixteen inches in diameter, covered with 120,000 viscid globes, upon which unwary flies are to be secured !
Bees, too, exhibit the most extraordinary instances of
“ Try again !” perseverance under difficulties, merrily singing with their burden at the end of a long day's work as they return to the hive.
Look at the curiously-worked nest of the paper-making wasp—what a lesson of perseverance it teaches; how admirably adapted to resist the rain, fold over fold enveloping the outside of the house, while inside the numerous cells, all made to pattern and exact in size, and formed out of masticated wood, again remind us of the old saying, “ Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee."
Did the paper-making wasp suggest the invention of papier-maché, I wonder ?
Sir John Lubbock has shown us how even a wasp can be tamed. He has given an interesting account of his experience with his ants in the matter of perseverance, und says: “In industry ants are not surpassed even by bees and wasps. They work all day, and in warm weather, if need be, even at night too. I once watched an ant from six in the morning, and she worked without intermission till a quarter to ten at night. I had put her to a saucer containing larvæ, and in this time she carried off no less than a hundred and eighty-seven to the nest. I once had another ant, which I employed in my experiments, under observation several days. When I came up to London in the morning and went to bed at night, I used to put her into a small bottle, but the moment she was let out she began to work again. On one occasion I was away from home for a week. On my return I let her out of the bottle, placing her on a little heap of laryæ about three feet from the nest. Under these circumstances I certainly did not expect her to return. However, though she had thus been six days in confinement, the brave little creature immediately picked up a larva, carried it off to the nest, and after half an hour's rest returned for another."
That is, as if one who had endured six days' solitary, confinement, without food, immediately returned to the work assigned him without sulking or grumbling.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways, and be wise.”
Amongst the wonders of the nineteenth century may be mentioned that one of the most important departments of our Government is superintended and controlled by a blind man. Everybody knows, or ought to know, that Mr. Fawcett, the Postmaster-General, has entirely lost his
sight, and yet in all the varied duties and difficulties and pleasures of life he takes a daily interest, fulfilling his part either in the great council of the nation or the office in a most admirable manner.
Indomitable energy and inflexibility of will alone could bring such a man into such a position.
Have you ever read the equally interesting story of the French naturalist, Franz Huber? He was born at Geneva in 1750, and became blind at an early age through excess of study.
Having a love for Nature, he set about studying the habits of bees after losing his sight, making his servant, Franz Burnens, his assistant, just as the Postmaster has his deputy.
Huber, like Fawcett, was a model of perseverance; and our little ant story would be incomplete without this brief reference both to him and his work. Here is his experience respecting the perseverance of the little people :
He had been watching the wood ant, and to convey an idea of how the straw or stubble roof of the nest is formed, he has written as follows :
“Let us take a view of the ant-hill at its origin, when it is simply a cavity in the earth. Some of its future inhabitants are seen wandering about in search of materials for the exterior work, with which, though rather irregularly, they cover up the entrance; whilst others are employed in mixing the earth, thrown up in hollowing the interior, with fragments of wood and leaves, which are every moment brought in by their fellow-assistants ; and this gives a certain consistence to the edifice, which increases in size daily. Our little architects leave here and there cavities where they intend constructing the galleries which are to lead to the exterior; and as they remove in the morning the barriers placed at the entrance of their nest the preceding evening, the passages are kept open during the time of its construction. I soon observed Wood Ant's Nest; nurses with their infant charge, and workers with the food.
the roof to become convex; but we should be greatly deceived did we consider it solid. This roof is destined to include many apartments or stories.
“Having observed the motions of these little builders” (a blind man always writes in this way) “ through a pane of glass adjusted against one of their habitations, I am thence enabled to speak with some degree of certainty upon the manner in which they are constructed. I ascertained that it is by excavating, or mining the under portion of their edifice, that they form their spacious halls, low indeed, and of heavy construction, yet sufficiently convenient for the use to which they are appropriated—that of receiving, at certain hours of the day, the larvæ and pupa.
These halls have a free communication by galleries made in the same manner. If the materials of which the ant-hill is composed were only interlaced, they would fall into a confused heap every time the ants attempted to bring them into regular order. This, however, is obviated by their tempering the earth with rain-water, which afterwards, hardened in the sun, so completely and effectually binds together the several substances, as to permit the removal of certain fragments from the ant-hill, without any injury to the rest; it, moreover, strongly opposes the introduction of the rain. I never found, even after long and violent rains, the interior of the nest wetted to more than a quarter of an inch from the surface, provided it had not been previously out of repair or deserted by its inhabitants."
Here are two illustrations of perseverance in one, first that of the ants, second of the writer, who, notwithstanding loss of sight, could pursue his study under such adverse circumstances. It is this determinedness of character that makes the difference between a wise man and a fool. Should any of our readers feel inclined to follow up this subject, in which, probably, their success and happi