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Mr. Coleman, to whom I have already referred, quoting an American naturalist, states that deprivation of a moth's antenne interferes with or entirely annihilates the power of flight, and that in its attempt it tumbles headlong to the earth; and experiments made on the antennæ or “ feelers," as some call them, of the queen bee, have frequently resulted in ruin to the whole hive where they have been injured.
Are you tired of my ant stories ? · Listen to another from the same respected source as the last.
My friend, like Solomon's of old, loved to watch the habits of these remarkable little people in his garden; and one day he was much amused with the perseverance of a little fellow who also was working hard with a load too heavy for him to bear, when a breeze springing up, he quietly picked up a dead leaf, and holding the load with his legs and the leaf with his mouth, hoisting it up as a sail, waited till the wind blew him and his load home together.
Now, if this isn't reason, pray tell me what is ? The ant here—like the spider casting its web from the workshop in its abdomen, when it comes out in a glutinous and semi-liquid form, and waiting in the structure of its bridge till the wind shall be in the direction in which it desires to travel-must reason upon the quarter of its abode and the relation of that to the breeze, which might otherwise convey it in an opposite direction.
" The ants are a people :" would that other people " were as self-denying, and as foreseeing, and as selfhelping as they. Here's a true story as given me by another friend.
He was lying in his bath in India, when he observed a frog on the floor. Presently bouncing into the room came a merry bee, who immediately attracted the attention of the frog. This class of animals, you know, feed on
insects; so the frog, thinking, I suppose, that the bee was the right thing in the right place, made one clean leap towards it and swallowed the insect whole.
Alas, poor frog !
What the whale was to Jonah, of course the frog was to the bee; but-ah, that little word " but”-even if Jonah had possessed a sword, he could have made but little use of it in that sub-aqueous world in which, through his cowardice, he found himself; but the bee is better off, and with one plunge he sent his poisoned blade right into the frog's heart.
He is happy who never makes a mistake; but he is happier who, having made a mistake, has both the courage and wisdom to confess and correct it. So with a great effort the frog did to the bee just what the whale did to Jonahvomited him up; but the terrible words “ too late!"--ah, what a lesson !—the poison got into the blood of the frog, and while the bee was disporting himself harmlessly in the air, none the worse for his temporary entombment, the frog began to swell, and presently became a bloated corpse.
My friend, the frog, and the bee were not the only spectators of this bath-room adventure ; an ant, up in the ceiling corner, had been watching the fun below, when, finding its friend the bee at liberty and the frog no more, down it came to reconnoitre. Now we shall see what the antennæ are really for: first, the ant began to feel the body of the frog in every direction. I suppose being satisfied that it had nothing to fear further, and frog's flesh being an extreme delicacy to the ant family, it would, my friend imagined, immediately set to work and fill its own belly with the choicest parts before it.
I can't say I quite agree with one of our learned naturalists of to-day that insect intelligence is on an average more than the equal of that of man ; but I do know that a hungry meal-hunter among my own species, finding a
choice dainty at some rich man's gate, would very quickly have demolished all he could carry inside, and would carefully conceal on his outside what remained.
What do you think the ant did ? Hurry away to its companions, communicate the good news, and invite them to join in the feast, and in a few minutes thousands of them marched towards the frog, leaving nothing behind but his skeleton.
I think, now, you will be satisfied that there is little doubt that the antennæ of insects are organs of communication, whatever else they may be, and it only remains that I give you another illustration which will be sure to confirm all the foregoing. What is memory?
This question is more easily asked than answered. When we have passed the meridian of life, we all know very well it is much easier to remember the event which happened thirty or forty years ago than what may have happened as many days ago. But then we are taught to believe that once in from four to seven years every bit of our physical part is taken out and built in again, so that a man at the age of fifty has had at least seven separate bodies-of course the brain changing with the rest. Then how is it he can remember with brain number seven what he did with brain, say, number two, supposing the brain to be the seat of memory?
This is the hardest nut you can give a materialist to crack, for it destroys at one blow the outwork of that chapter in infidelity.
But then it only leads us out of one difficulty into another, for if memory be immaterial it must be spiritual; and if spiritual, and brutes have memories, are they, too, spiritual ?
Perhaps the greatest living authority on ants is Sir John Lubbock. He has many nests in his country home, and he keeps them from running away by making a small moat filled with water surrounding the tables upon which the formicaries—that is, the homes of the ants—are placed ; for the scientific name for the ant family is Formicida, from the Latin word formica, an ant.
Well, he desired to test the memory question with some of his ants; so, having removed a number from one of their nests, and keeping them absent about six months, before he returned them he made some of them quite drunk, and then returning the whole company of absentees, sober and drunken together, he curiously watched the result.
The undisturbed part of the colony came out to receive the new-comers, welcomed the sober ants into their old home, and dropped the drunken ones into the water below.
This almost surpasses belief, I must confess; but the author of the story is, beyond doubt, worthy of all confidence.
Now, this little illustration of antennal communication, belonging as it does to the instinctive chapter in insect life, reminds us of the mysteriously thin line that separates the instinct of the brute from the intelligence of the man, reminding us of that passage in the oldest poem in the world, the poem of Job : “ Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee” (xii. 7, 8). You will find it profitable exceedingly to observe the superiority of the brutes' instinct sometimes to the human intelligence; hence, as the more mental functions are used the stronger they become, you will wisely endeavour to use your intelligence more, that you may advance in the spiritual life, and learn the true meaning and value of the word “Excelsior !"
And here is a hint for you to begin with, a key to the riddle I wish to introduce in the next chapter.
Surrounded as we are on all sides with the certainty of our own mortality, and convinced, as all men and women
in their right minds must be, of a great future when this life is over, wouldn't you expect they were constantly preparing for the migration ?
Now, see what is suggested in the life of our “little people” in Siam. There the ants build on the ground, but sometimes the places in the neighbourhood of their nests are flooded with water. Ants cannot swim, and the consequence of unpreparedness would therefore be fatal. Now what do you think the Siamese ants do? Well, as I suppose, they ascertain through the barometrical structure of their antennæ that the rainy season is approaching, just as our honey bees do; they then remove their residence, and rebuild up higher, constructing their habitations in the trees between the branches, which of course the water never reaches. “Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee "—what ?