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Not the least strange of all this assemblage is the author of our rainbow in the stump. My awkwardness had broken into a hollow, which opened to the light on the other side of the rotten bole. A vine had tendriled its way into the crevice, where the little weaver of rainbows had found board and lodging. We may call him toad-hopper or spittlebug—or, as Fabre says, 'Con ten tonsnous de Cicadelle, qui respecte le tympan.' Like all its kindred, the bubble-bug finds Nirvana in a sappy green stem. It has neither strong flight nor sticky wax, thorny armature nor gas-barrage, so it proceeds to weave an armor of bubbles, a cuirass of liquid film. This, in brief, was the rainbow which caught my eye when I broke open the stump. Up to that moment no rainbow had existed — only a little light sifting through from the vine-clad side. But now a ray of sun shattered itself on the pile of bubbles, and sprayed out into a curved glory.
Bubble-bugs blow their froth only when immature, and their bodies are a distillery, or home-brew, of sorts. No matter what the color, or viscosity, or chemical properties of sap, regardless of whether it flows in liana, shrub, or vine, the bug's artesian product is clear, tasteless, and wholly without the possibility of being blown into bubbles. When a large drop has collected, the tip of the abdomen encloses a retort of air, inserts this in the drop, and forces it out. In some way an imponderable amount of oil or dissolved wax is extruded and mixed with the drop — an invisible shellac, which toughens the bubble and gives it an astounding glutinous endurance. As long as the abdominal air-pump can be extended into the atmosphere, so long does the pile of bubbles grow until the insect is deep buried, and to penetrate this is as unpleasant an achievement for small marauders as to force a cobweb entanglement.
I have draped a big pile of bubbles around the beak of an insect-eating bird, and watched it shake its head and wipe its beak in evident disgust at the clinging oily films. In the north we have the bits of fine white foam which we characteristically call frog-spittle; but these tropic relatives have bigger bellows, and their covering is like the interfering mass of film that emerges from the soap-bubble bowl when a pipe is thrust beneath the surface and that delicious gurgling sound is produced.
The most marvelous part of the whole thing is that the undistilled well that the bubble-bug taps would often overwhelm it in an instant, either by the burning acidity of its composition, or by the rubber coating of death into which it hardens in the air. Yet from this current of lava or vitriol our bug does three wonderful things: it distills sweet water for its present protective cell of bubbles; it draws purest nourishment for continual energy to run its bellows and pump; and simultaneously it fills its blood and tissues with a pungent flavor, which in the future will be a safeguard against the attacks of birds and lizards. Little by little its wings swell to full spread and strength; muscles are fashioned in its hind-legs, which, in time, will shoot it through great distances of space; and pigment of the most brilliant yellow and black forms on its wing-covers. When, at last, it shuts down its little still and creeps forth through the filmy veil, it is immature no longer, but a brilliant frog-hopper, sitting on the most conspicuous leaves, trusting, by pigmental warning, to advertise its inedibility, and watchful for a mate, so that the future may hold no dearth of bubble-bugs.
On my first tramp each season in the tropical jungle, I see the legionary army ants hastening on their way to battle, and the leaf-cutters plodding along, with chlorophyll hods over their shoulders, exactly as they did last year, and the year preceding, and probably a hundred thousand years before that. The Colony Egos of army and leaf-cutters may quite reasonably be classified, at least according to kingdom. The former, with carnivorous, voracious, nervous, vitally active members, seems an intangible, animal-like organism; while the stolid, unemotional, weatherswung Attas resemble the flowing sap of the food on which they subsist — vegetable.
Yet, whatever the simile, in the case of both of these colonies of ants, the net of unconscious precedent is too closely drawn, the mesh of instinct is too fine, to hope for any initiative. This was manifested by the most significant and spectacular occurrence I have ever observed in the world of insects. Some two years or more ago I studied, and reported upon, a nest of Ecitons, or Army Ants.1 Eighteen months later, apparently the same army appeared and made a similar nest of their own bodies, in the identical spot above the door of the outhouse, where I had found them before. Again we had to break up the temporary resting-place of these nomads, and killed about three quarters of the colony with various deadly chemicals.
In spite of the tremendous slaughter, the Ecitons, in late afternoon, raided a small colony of Wasps-of-the-Painted-Nest. These little chaps construct a round, sub-leaf carton-home, as large as a golf-ball, which carries out all the requirements of counter-shading and ruptive markings. The flattened, shadowed under-surface was white, and most of the sloping walls dark brown, down which extended eight white lines, following the veins of the leaf overhead. The side close to the stem of the leaf, 1 See the Atlantic for October, 1919.
and consequently always in deep shadow, was pure white. The eaves, catching high lights, were black.
All this marvelous merging with leaf-tones went for naught when once an advance Eciton scout located the nest. As the deadly mob approached, the wasplets themselves seemed to realize the futility of offering battle, and the entire colony of forty-four gathered in a forlorn group on a neighboring leaf, while their little castle was rifled — larvae and pupae torn from their cells, and rushed down the stems to the chaos that was raging in the Ecitons' own home. The wasps could guard against optical discovery, but the blind Army Ants had senses which transcended vision, if not even scent.
Late that night, our lanterns showed the remnants of the Eciton army wandering aimlessly about, making near approach impossible, but apparently lacking any definite concerted action.
At six o'clock the next morning I was starting for a swim, when, at the foot of the laboratory steps, I saw a swiftly moving, broad line of Army Ants on safari, passing through the compound to the beach. I traced them back under the servants' quarters, through two clumps of bamboos, to the out-house. Later, I followed along the column down to the river sand, through a dense mass of underbrush, through a hollow log, up the bank, back through light jungle — to the out-house again; and on a large fallen log, a few feet beyond the spot where their nest had been, the ends of the circle actually came together. It was the most astonishing thing, and I had to verify it again and again before I could believe the evidence of my eyes. It was a strong column, six lines wide in many places, and the ants fully believed that they were on their way to a new home; for most were carrying eggs or larvse, although many had food, including the larvae of the Painted-Nest wasplets. For an hour at noon, during heavy rain, the column weakened and almost disappeared; but when the sun returned, the lines rejoined, and the revolution of the vicious circle continued.
There were several places which made excellent points of observation, and here we watched and marveled. Careful measurement of the great circle showed a circumference of twelve hundred feet. We timed the laden Ecitons, and found that they averaged two to two and three quarters inches a second. So a given individual would complete the round in about two hours and a half. Many guests were plodding along with the ants — mostly staphylinids, of which we secured five species: a brown Histerid beetle, a tiny Chalcid, and several Phorid flies, one of which was winged.
The fat Histerid beetle was most amusing, getting out of breath every few feet, and abruptly stopping to rest, turning around in its tracks, standing almost on its head, and allowing the swarm of ants to run up over it and jump off. Then on it would go again, keeping up the terrific speed of two and a half inches a second, for another yard. Its color was identical with the Ecitons' armor, and when it folded up, nothing could harm it. Once a worker stopped and antennred it suspiciously; but aside from this, it was accepted as one of the line of marchers.
All the afternoon the insane circle revolved; at midnight, the hosts were still moving; the second morning many had weakened and dropped their burdens and the general pace had very appreciably slackened. But still the blind grip of instinct held them. On, on, on they must go! Always before in their nomadic life there had been a goal — a sanctuary of hollow tree, snug heart of bamboos; surely this terrible grind must end somehow. In this crisis, even the
Spirit of the Army was helpless. Along the normal paths of Eciton life he could inspire endless enthusiasm, illimitable energy; but here his material units were bound upon the wheel of their perfection of instinct. Through sun and cloud, day and night, hour after hour, there was found no Eciton with individual initiative enough to turn aside an ant's breadth from the circle that he had traversed perhaps fifteen times.
Fewer and fewer now came along the well-worn path; burdens littered the line of march, like the arms and accoutrements thrown down by a retreating army. At last, a scanty single line struggled past — tired, hopeless, bewildered, idiotic, and thoughtless to the last. Then some half-dead Eciton straggled from the circle along the beach, and threw the line behind him into confusion. The desperation of total exhaustion had accomplished what necessity and opportunity and normal life could not. Several others followed his scent instead of that leading back toward the out-house; and as an amoeba gradually flows into one of its own pseudopodia, so the forlorn hope of the great Eciton army passed slowly down the beach and on into the jungle. Would they die singly and in bewildered groups, or would the remnant draw together, and, again guided by the supermind of its Mentor, lay the foundation of another army, and again come to nest in my out-house?
Thus was the ending still unfinished, the finale buried in the future — and in this we find the fascination of Nature and of Science. Who can be bored for a moment in the short existence vouchsafed us here, with dramatic beginnings barely hidden in the dust, with the excitement of every moment of the present, and with all of cosmic possibility lying just concealed in the future, whether of Betelgeuse, of Amoeba, or — of ourselves? Vogue la galhrel
ERANT ENIM PISCATORES
BY HARRISON COLLINS
The last rays of the setting sun gilded the distant camel-hump of Hieizan; up the valleys crept the soft fingers of a Japanese night. Spring was abroad in the air, in the bat fluttering over the surrounding paddy-fields, in the yellow evening-primroses already abloom; everywhere save in the young foreign teacher Addison's heart. On his shoulders rested a terrible responsibility; and as the bell for evening prayers clanged through the dormitory, the perpendicular cleft in his conscientious forehead deepened, and he grappled anew with his latest disciplinary problem.
How to present the matter in the most favorable, most compelling light — that was the question. He watched the shadows outside lengthen. Well, he 'd put it up to these Japanese boys just as he had to the fellows at the College 'Y' six months before, at home. They 'd understand. Things certainly could n't continue to go on as at present, from difficult bad to intolerable worse.
Below stairs, stumbling to a chair beyond the ping-pong table and babyorgan, he sat down on a baseball glove, that may or may not have got there by mistake, just as Yagi San screwed a new bulb into its socket and flooded the disorderly room with light. He watched the boys absently, as with tattered hymnals and much flapping of indoor sandals they drew up into the usual circle, giggled, and subsided into vivid silence.
There were ten, in all, present. First, to the left wriggled the Koyama cous
ins, — Jusan and Eisan, — thirteen and twelve years old respectively; Jusan so fat that his eyes were completely invisible behind horizontal slits; Eisan, tiny, wraithlike, the dormitory's inimitable mimic (when Addison was not present), charter-member of that universal brotherhood of contemporaries whose idea of the last word in humor calls for the intimate association of a chair, a dignified older person, and a tack or a pin. Hirose San, an overgrown, somewhat stupid-looking boy of seventeen—big-headed, moon-faced, thick-lipped — loomed beyond. Then Kuroda San, baseball fan and fielder, sat silent and somewhat bored by his friend Ouye San, also seventeen and fellow admirer of Mr. Babe Ruth. The pair, with their sun-baked hawk countenances, would have made excellent American Indians, had they worn blankets instead of kimonos. Yagi San, of the same age, — a pretty boy, pale, with almost infantile features, — was finding the place in the hymnal for little Fujimura San — a newcomer from Osaka, apple-cheeked, fourteen years old. Kawazura San, tall, lean, humorless, a good student, carrying his sixteen years as a Buddha carries his centuries, sat sphinx-like, ready to begin, his large eyes staring. Stunted Inouye San, his neighbor, fifteen years of age, at seven o'clock was already nodding, half asleep. Last, completing the circle, sat good, faithful, handsome, manly Suzuki. (The adjectives were all applicable, thought Addison.) He was nineteen and would be graduated next year. Not a bad bunch, not half a bad bunch, mused their teacher, while waiting for the meeting to come fully to order and life.
'To-night we 'll sing no hymns. I want to talk. What I say Suzuki here will translate. All right?'
Suzuki blushed and everybody laughed, Addison loudest. Then, remembering his solemn duty, he resolutely banished his smile and summoned again the difficult frown.
'Fellows,' he began threateningly (his manner had been much admired in similar meetings at home), and thumping his closed hymn-book, 'awfully sorry, and all that, but you and I have got to go to the mat now on at least two counts.'
He glared round on all present, and the boys, who knew him in private life as a being not wholly impossible to propitiate, and also as a corking good baseball pitcher, registered appropriate and sympathetic solemnity, without understanding one word. Sotto voce: 'Shoot 'em that, Suzuki!'
Suzuki, politely, deprecatingly, in Japanese: 'Honorable everyone! Pardon me, but the Sensei says we're going to the jiu-jitsu room to meet two counts.'
Interested surprise manifested everywhere, but gravity still maintained, since the occasion and the Sensei's face seemed to demand it.
'Number one,' holding up a long forefinger, 'hereafter we've got to cut out all late hours.'
Suzuki, hesitating: 'The first count says we must operate on ourselves. That is' — uncertainly — 'so the Sensei says.'
Puzzlement on part of audience; but foreigners are funny creatures anyhow — even Sensei.
Addison, warming up: 'That's right, that's right, Suzuki; give it to 'em straight, give it to 'em straight!'
Then, fixing a baleful eye on trembling twelve-year-old Eisan Koyama, he shouted in a voice of thunder, —
'Males,' courteously murmured the faithful Suzuki.
'Men, things can't go on here as they are at present. The Antis in school already say you can tell a Christian dormitory boy by his sleepy face!'
Suzuki: 'Males, in school (in America?) there are kind aunts who give a present to every Christian boy who has a sleepy face.' Then, hurriedly, in the same tone of voice, with unnecessary anxiety lest Addison discover any linguistic blunder: 'So he says, but perhaps I 'm not getting all this.'
Addison (in his best manner, with infinite and scathing contempt): 'Such a condition, men, turns your stomach and fills you with disgust.'
Suzuki: 'Such a condition, males, turns your stomach over and fills it with dust.'
Addison held up another accusing finger beside the first: 'Count two.'
'The second count.'
(Recrudescence of interest on the part of the audience.)
'This count is of even greater importance.'
'This count is of even higher rank.'
'men, we are losing our vitality in getting across our propaganda.'
Here, Suzuki was forced into surrender and begged for further enlightenment. A conference ensued, and he interpreted : —
'In spreading our propaganda we are losing our lives.'
(Visible consternation on every face except that of Inouye, who was by this time asleep.)
'Pep, pep, PEP! We must show more pep. To win out we've got to get a wiggle on. (No, Suzuki, afraid you can't make that one — get a more on, I mean.) In a school of eight hundred