Page images
PDF
EPUB

remarkable attachment which the inhabitants of a disturbed nest of ants manifest towards certain small white oblong bodies with which it is usually stored. He must have perceived that the ants are much less intently occupied with providing for their own safety than in carrying off these little bodies to a place of security. To effect this purpose the whole community is in motion, and no danger can divert them from attempting its accomplishment. An observer having cut an ant in two, the poor mutilated animal did not relax in its affectionate exertions. With that half of the body to which the head remained attached it contrived, previously to expiring, to carry off ten of these white masses into the interior of the nest !

“ You will readily divine that these attractive objects are the young of the ants in one of the first or imperfect states. They are, in fact, not the eggs, as they are vulgarly called, but the pupe, which the working ants tend with the most patient assiduity.

“These, which are so small as to be scarcely visible to the naked eye, as soon as deposited by the queen ant, who drops them at random in her progress through the nest, are taken charge of by the workers, who immediately seize them and carry them in their mouths, incessantly turning them backwards and forwards with their tongue for the purpose of moistening them, without which they would come to nothing. They then lay them in heaps, which they place in separate apartments and constantly tend until hatched into larvæ ; frequently in the course of the day removing them from one quarter of the nest to another, as they require a warmer or cooler, a moister or drier atmosphere, and at intervals brooding over them as if to impart a genial warmth” (p. 206).

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

“ Within the brain's most secret cells

A certain lord of justice dwells,
Of sovereign power, whom one and all,
With common voice, we Reason call.”—CHURCHILL.

“Oh, Reason! who shall say what spells renew,
When least we look for it, thy broken clue!
Through what small vistas o'er the darkened brain
Thy intellectual day-beam bursts again;
And now, like forts, to which beleaguerers win
Unboped-for entrance through some friend within,
One clear idea, waken'd in the breast,
By Memory's magic lets in all the rest.”—LALLA Rooku.

OLUMES have been written about dogs. The instinct of the animal is its great attraction, and if it has learned some of the vices of men

it has also learned much of their virtues; but has a dog ever built such a wonderful house as either the bee or the ant ?

Have you ever observed a dog making its bed ? It turns round and round, and at last, comfortably covering its head in its tail, it goes off to sleep. That is the habit peculiar to its wild nature which through ages of civilization it appears never to lose ; but give it straw upon which to sleep, and then compare its self-made bed with an ants' nest or a bees' hive, and you will see how much better it is to have little brains and make good use of them, as an intelligent being, than to have much and to use them badly.

I have given you several illustrations of mutual help in the history of the ant; now to compare one with the other, let me give you one of the dog.

A personal friend, and a great lover of nature, living in the crowded streets of the West End of London, once had a highly intelligent dog named “ Jerry;" he was the dog of the place, if not the dog of the period. I knew him well, and among others Jerry was always amongst the first to give me a hearty welcome. Jerry's department was downstairs in a subterranean kitchen, and to reach this a flight of some twenty stone steps had to be trodden. A poor beggar-dog was one day found at the top of the stairs asking alms of his more fortunate companion, and Jerry was actually seen taking from his own provision, up all those steps, to his hungry relative, whom he wouldn't allow to come into the building, a bone with which to satisfy his appetite; then telling him in canine language to go about his business.

Now, shall we compare that with another illustration taken from another animal's experience, and then draw our conclusion ?

A clockmaker was once employed to make a clock for the Temple, in Fleet Street, very near to where Jerry lived. An inscription was required for the clock. Many people like inscriptions on their clocks ; here is one on the pendulum of mine

“ NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME.”

Before the clock was brought home the maker came and waited for the inscription; but the chief of the office, not knowing the man or his errand, ordered him off, saying, Go about your business.” So the simple fellow, supposing this was the motto to be put on his clock, engraved the words, Go about your business," which so tickled the fancy of the owner that it was allowed to remain.

Now, compare this language of a dog with the antennal language of an ant, in its use as respects self-help, with the use which we should make of our intelligence, and then our story will have a moral.

Here is another like it in its lesson of sympathy and self-denial.

Another friend had a French dog, who, like Jerry, was a terrible enemy to cats. One cat, left in the house, was the object of his intense hatred, upon whom he repeatedly made very savage attacks, so that at last it was thought necessary to part them, illustrating the truth of the saying of other animals than cats and dogs, who sometimes, nevertheless, lead a regular dog-and-cat kind of a life.

The chief characteristic of the enmity between the animals now mentioned was that the dog would never allow the cat to eat her meals in peace, not only disturbing, but robbing her of her food.

One day the cat became the mother of several kittens, and to keep them from her angry enemy the dog, they were deposited in a lower drawer under the side-board of the kitchen, where the mother nursed her little charge. As soon as she took possession both of her family and the drawer, she was seen to go boldly up to the dog; when presently the latter was seen to go, accompanied by the cat, up to the drawer wherein the family was hidden, and both dog and cat looked in, and the dog appearing perfectly to understand how matters stood never again interfered either with meals, cat, or kittens.

Here was, undoubtedly, a mother's appeal ; it was irresistible, and it will fairly compare with the ant seeking a

nurse for the little ones and with the spider who gave us the useful lecture upon self-denial.

It is an old saying that “Reason is the glory of human nature, and one of the chief eminences whereby we are raised above the beasts in this lower world.” And, again,

“Man is not the prince of creatures,

But in reason; fail that, he is worse
Than horse, or dog, or beast of wilderness."

But do not brutes reason ?

Some years ago an old man had to attend to an old horse in the stable ; giving him corn from the loft above he fell through on to the stable floor, and there lay insen:sible. The horse was loose; they had been old friends for many years together, and had you been there you would have seen the poor brute taking up his dead friend by the clothes, and walking with him in his mouth to his family.

Wasn't this something very much like reason ? Another horse had every week to carry home a drunken driver from a country market. The “ lord of creation ” was too far “gone,” as it is said, to guide the brute, and more than once on the homeward journey le rolled quite out of his cart, and there lay in the roadway. Now wouldn't you have said, after he had received warning after warning, “Let him alone till he come to his senses; as le has made his bed, let him lie on it ?'" &c. What do you think the brute did ? Stood across the man's body, having him under his four legs, and thus protected him every time till assistance arrived, when he was restored to the cart.

Wild beasts will exhibit the same character of reasoning in a lesser or greater degree. The Bombay ape, found in large numbers in Gibraltar, las a strange fancy that its little ones should appear with clean faces and nicelycombed hair; but it has neither soap and water, nor towel, nor brush nor comb with which to accomplish the toilet.

« PreviousContinue »