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downpour reduces a thousand banners and waving, bright-colored petals to debris, to be trodden under foot. Sometimes, after a ten-minute storm, the trails will be carpeted with thousands of bits of green mosaic, which the outgoing hordes will trample in their search for more leaves. On a dark night little seems to be done; but at dawn and dusk, and in the moonlight or clear starlight, the greatest activity is manifest.
Attas are such unpalatable creatures that they are singularly free from dangers. There is a tacit armistice between them and the other labor-unions. The Army Ants occasionally make use of their trails when they are deserted; but when the two great races of ants meet, each antennaes the aura of the other, and turns respectfully aside. When Termites wish to traverse an Atta trail, they burrow beneath it, or build a covered causeway across, through which they pass and repass at will, and over which the Attas trudge, uncaring and unconscious of its significance.
Only creatures with the toughest of digestions would dare to include these prickly, strong-jawed, meatless insects in a bill of fare. Now and then I have found an ani, or black cuckoo, with a few in its stomach: but an ani can swallow a stinging-haired caterpillar and enjoy it. The most consistent feeder upon Attas is the giant marine toad. Two hundred Attas in a night is not an uncommon meal, the exact number being verifiable by a count of the undigested remains of heads and abdomens. Bufo marinus is the gardener's best friend in this tropic land, and besides, he is a gentleman and a philosopher, if ever an amphibian was one.
While the cutting of living foliage is the chief aim in life of these ants, yet they take advantage of the flotsam and jetsam along the shore, and each low tide finds a column from some nearby nest salvaging flowerets, leaves, and
even tiny berries. A sudden wash of tide lifts a hundred ants with their burdens and then sets them down again, when they start off as if nothing had happened.
The paths or trails of the Attas represent very remarkable feats of engineering, and wind about through jungle and glade for surprising distances. I once traced a very old and wide trail for well over two hundred yards. Taking little Third-of-an-inch for a type (although he would rank as a rather large Atta), and comparing him with a six-foot man, we reckon this trail, ant-ratio, as a full twenty-five miles. Belt records a leaf-cutter's trail half a mile long, which would mean that every ant that went out, cut his tiny bit of leaf, and returned, would traverse a distance of a hundred and sixteen miles. This was an extreme; but our Atta may take it for granted, speaking antly, that once on the home trail, he has, at the least, four or five miles ahead of him.
The Atta roads are clean swept, as straight as possible, and very conspicuous in the jungle. The chief high-roads leading from very large nests are a good foot across, and the white sand of their beds is visible a long distance away. I once knew a family of opossums living in a stump in the centre of a dense thicket. When they left at evening, they always climbed along as far as an Atta trail, dropped down to it, and followed it for twenty or thirty yards. During the rains I have occasionally found tracks of agoutis and deer in these roads. So it would be very possible for the Attas to lay the foundation for an animal trail, and this, a la calfpath, for the street of a future city.
The part that scent plays in the trails is evidenced if we scatter an inch or two of fresh sand across the road. A mass of ants banks against the strange obstruction on both sides, on the one hand a solid phalanx of waving green banners, and on the other a mob of empty-jawed workers with wildly waving antennae. Scouts from both sides slowly wander forward, and finally reach one another and pass across. But not for ten minutes does anything like regular traffic begin again.
When carrying a large piece of leaf, and traveling at a fair rate of speed, the ants average about a foot in ten seconds, although many go the same distance in five. I tested the speed of an Atta, and then I saw that its leaf seemed to have a peculiar-shaped bug upon it, and picked it up with its bearer. Finding the blemish to be only a bit of fungus, I replaced it. Half an hour later I was seated by a trail far away, when suddenly my ant with the blemished spot appeared. It was unmistakable, for I had noticed that the spot was exactly that of the Egyptian symbol of life. I paced the trail, and found that seventy yards away it joined the spot where I had first seen my friend. So, with occasional spurts, he had done two hundred and ten feet in thirty minutes, and this in spite of the fact that he had picked up a supercargo.
Two parts of hydrogen and one of oxygen, under the proper stimulus, invariably result in water; two and two, considered calmly and without passion, combine into four; the workings of instinct, especially in social insects, is so mechanical that its results can almost be demonstrated in formula; and yet here was my Atta leaf-carrier burdened with a minim. The worker Attas vary greatly in size, as a glance at a populous trail will show. They have been christened macrergates, desmergates and micrergates; or we may call the largest maxims, the average middle class mediums, and the tiny chaps minims, and all have more or less separate functions in the ecology of the colony. The minims are replicas in miniature of the
big chaps, except that their armor is pale cinnamon rather than chestnut. Although they can bite ferociously, they are too small to cut through leaves, and they have very definite duties in the nest; yet they are found with every leaf-cutting gang, hastening along with their larger brethren, but never doing anything, that I could detect, at their journey's end. I have a suspicion that the little minims, who are very numerous, function as light cavalry; for in case of danger they are as eager at attack as the great soldiers, and the leaf-cutters, absorbed in their arduous labor, would benefit greatly from the immunity ensured by a flying corps of their little bulldog comrades.
I can readily imagine that these nestling minims become weary and foot-sore (like bank-clerks guarding a reservoir), and if instinct allows such abominable individuality, they must often wish themselves back at the nest, for every mile of a medium is three miles to them.
Here is where our mechanical formula breaks down; for, often, as many as one in every five leaves that pass bears aloft a minim or two, clinging desperately to the waving leaf and getting a free ride at the expense of the already overburdened medium. Ten is the extreme number seen, but six to eight minims collected on a single leaf is not uncommon. Several times I have seen one of these little banner-riders shift deftly from leaf to leaf, when a swifter carrier passed by, as a circus bareback rider changes steeds at full gallop.
Once I saw enacted above ground, and in the light of day, something which may have had its roots in an Anlage of divine discontent. If I were describing the episode half a century ago, I should entitle it, 'The Battle of the Giants, or Emotion Enthroned.' A quadruple line of leaf-carriers was disappearing down a hole in front of the laboratory, bumped and pushed by an out-pouring, empty-jawed mass of workers. As I watched them, I became aware of an area of great excitement beyond the hole. Getting down as nearly as possible to ant height, I witnessed a terrible struggle. Two giants — of the largest soldier maxim caste — were locked in each other's jaws, and to my horror, I saw that each had lost his abdomen. The antennae and the abdomen petiole are the only vulnerable portions of an Atta, and long after he has lost these apparently dispensable portions of his anatomy, he is able to walk, fight, and continue an active but erratic life. These mighty-jawed fellows seem never to come to the surface unless danger threatens; and my mind went down into the black, musty depths, where it is the duty of these soldiers to walk about and wait for trouble. What could have raised the ire of such stolid neuters against one another? Was it sheer lack of something to do? or was there a cell or two of the winged caste lying fallow within their bodies, which, stirring at last, inspired a will to battle, a passing echo of romance, of the activities of the male Atta?
Their unnatural combat had stirred scores of smaller workers to the highest pitch of excitement. Now and then, out of the melee, a medium would emerge, with a tiny minim in his jaws. One of these carried his still living burden many feet away, along an unused trail, and dropped it. I examined the small ant, and found that it had lost an antenna, and its body was crushed. When the ball of fighters cleared, twelve small ants were seen clinging to the legs and heads of the mutilated giants, and now and then these would loosen their hold on each other, turn, and crush one of
their small tormenters. Several times I saw a medium rush up and tear a small ant away, apparently quite insane with excitement.
Occasionally the least exhausted giant would stagger to his four and a half remaining legs, hoist his assailant, together with a mass of the midgets, high in air, and stagger for a few steps, before falling beneath the onrush of new attackers. It made me wish to help the great insect, who, for aught I knew, was doomed because he was different — because he had dared to be an individual.
I left them struggling there, and half an hour later, when I returned, the episode was just coming to a climax. My Atta hero was exerting his last strength, flinging off the pile that assaulted him, fighting all the easier because of the loss of his heavy body. He lurched forward, dragging the second giant, now dead, not toward the deserted trail or the world of jungle around him, but headlong into the lines of stupid leaf-carriers, scattering green leaves and flower-petals in all directions. Only when dozens of ants threw themselves upon him, many of them biting each other in their wild confusion, did he rear up for the last time, and, with the whole mob, rolled down into the yawning mouth of the Atta nesting-hole, disappearing from view, and carrying with him all those hurrying up the steep sides. It was a great battle. I was breathing fast with sympathy, and whatever his cause, I was on his side.
The next day both giants were lying on the old, disused trail; the revolt against absolute democracy was over; ten thousand ants passed to and fro without a dissenting thought, or any thought, and the Spirit of the Attas was content.
WHAT DO BOYS KNOW?
BY ALFRED G. ROLFE
'all men are liars,' said the Psalmist, in his haste. It was a rash statement, which, doubtless, he had cause later to regret. Were he living now, and a teacher of youth, he might well be tempted to say in his wrath, 'All young people are fools'; and again he would be wrong, at least so far as boys are concerned. Girls I must leave to those who know them better than I. They look intelligent; but appearances are deceitful, and their conversation, while picturesque, is not always reassuring.
Once there was a girl who, through all the courses of a long dinner, entertained her neighbor with sprightly talk. At the time he thought that he had never enjoyed a conversation more; but when he meditated upon it, in the cold night watches, he realized that he had done all the talking, her share being confined to two words, 'rippin" and 'rath-er.' The rest was 'charm.' That is, however, another story.
I have a theory that girls know better than boys how to make a little information, as well as a limited vocabulary, go a long way. It is a theory the truth of which it is difficult for me to establish, and I shall not attempt to do so. Boys, on the other hand, seem at times to glory in their ignorance. They wear it as a garment; they flaunt it in one's face. 'The world is still deceived with ornament,' but not by them. Knowledge is theirs, but'knowledge never learned of schools,' hidden below the surface. This makes them a fascinating, if baffling, subject of study, and gives point to the query, 'What do boys know?'
For some years it has been part of my job as master in a large preparatory school for boys, to make out each year two 'information tests,' and to superintend the correction of the papers. Each test contains one hundred questions, and presupposes on the part of the pupil a bowing acquaintance with the masterpieces of English literature, including the Bible, some knowledge of the political doings of the day at home and abroad, and a smattering of what is politely, but vaguely, styled 'general information,' which comes from the habit of keeping open the eyes and ears.
The boys who take the tests range from twelve to nineteen years of age and are, for the most part, sons of wealthy parents. They have enjoyed all the advantages that money can buy. Many have traveled widely. Not a few have been exposed to the society of refined and cultured persons.
The tests are anticipated with an interest that amounts almost to enthusiasm. There are book prizes for the winners, and the successful ones receive from their fellows plaudits not usually given in this day and generation to those whose wits are nimbler than their heels.
After reading some hundreds of these 'general information' papers, I am forced to conclude that the average boy's ignorance of literature, especially of the Bible, is profound, not to say abysmal. The unplumbed depth of the abyss may, perhaps, be assigned to the youth who gave as his version of the third commandment, 'Thou shalt not commit Deuteronomy!' but he will not lack company. The question,'Who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land?' brought out an amazing array of candidates for that high honor, beginning with Noah, embracing all the prophets, major and minor, and ending with 'Moses, the Baptist.' Answers to the question, 'What book of the Old Testament has no mention of God?' ranged impartially from Genesis to Malachi, with a strong bias toward the former, in spite of its opening words, 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'
It is only too evident that in many modern households family worship is unknown. No longer does 'the priestlike father read the sacred page,' while 'the children round the ingle form a circle wide.' As a matter of fact, one would have to look far to find an ingle in a modern apartment; the father, quite unpriestlike in garb and conversation, is on the links, or snuggling with pipe and paper in his easy chair; the children are swinging wide in quite another sort of circle, and the family Bible, if there be one, is lying, neglected, on the table, hidden from sight by The New Republic, Vanity Fair (not Thackeray's), and the Golfer's Companion.
How, then, is the boy to become acquainted with 'the only book,' as Walter Scott would have it? In Church and Sunday School? Many a boy never has attended either of them. In the public school? The Bible was banished from it long ago.
There remains the private school, in whose curriculum may be found a brief course in 'Bible,' which, in the boy's mind, takes its place with his other lessons, to be learned, recited, and joyfully forgotten as soon as possible. Why should he know who pulled down the temple of Dagon, or who slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass? These tragic happenings mean no
more to him than the death of Baldur, the exploits of Asurbanipal, or many other 'old unhappy far-off things and battles long ago.'
Clearly, then, the fault lies not with the boy. Teacher and parent must share the blame, and it would ill become one who views the matter from the standpoint of the teacher only, to say which is the more culpable.
Unfortunately, the boy's ignorance of the great English masterpieces is not limited to the Bible. Profane literature receives but little better treatment at his hands. Every boy has a few favorite authors, whom he holds responsible for all that has been written in prose or verse since Shakespeare's day. Longfellow heads the list, with Tennyson and Kipling following closely; and many are the crimes that are committed in their names. There is some reason for attributing The Vision of Sir Launfal to Lord Tennyson, for he sang of knights and their visions; but why should he be made to father Two Years before the Mast, Westward Ho! and The Ancient Mariner? Evidently, in the minds of many boys, 'the sea is his, and he made it.' There are, however, two poems which every boy hails with joy as his very own. These are Hiawatha and The Raven. Few boys have read them, and fewer could quote a line of them, but the majority identify without difficulty quotations from either. How the boy knows them, I cannot tell, nor can he. It is one of the curiosities of literature.
'The proper study of mankind is man,' but it is evident that boykind has not greatly concerned itself with the study of boy: for we learn that the centre of the nervous system is the spine, spleen, lungs, pancreas, and 'diafram'; the bones of the forearm are the elbow, biceps, forceps, and habeas corpus; the normal temperature of the human body varies from fifty to two hundred and