vessel of water surrounding the bottom of an orange-tree tub. They did so by conveying a number of little pieces of wood, the choice of that material instead of earth or stones, as in the previous case, apparently betokening no small knowledge of practical engineering -a knowledge which, as we shall presently see, is also shared by the Ecitons.

Büchner, in his recently published and translated work on Mind in Animals, gives a singular observation analogous to the above, which was communicated to him by Herr G. Theuerkauf. A maple tree standing in the grounds of Herr Vollbaum, of Elbing, swarmed with ants and aphides. In order to check the mischief, the proprietor smeared about a foot width of the ground around the tree with tar. The first ants that arrived stuck fast; but the next, seeing the predicament of their companions, turned back and fetched a number of aphides from the tree, which they stuck down on the tar one after another till they had made a bridge over which they could cross without danger.

It will be observed that all these cases, being so analogous although recorded independently by different observers, serve to corroborate one another. As such corroboration in matters of this kind is of value, I shall here add two or three cases which go to confirm the observation of Cardinal Fleury regarding the construction of a floating bridge. Dr. Ellendorf writes to Professor Büchner that he protected a cupboard of his provisions from the invasion of ants by standing the legs of the cupboard in saucers filled with water. He adds :

I myself did this, but I none the less found thousands of ants in the cupboard next morning. It was a puzzle to me how they crossed the water, but the puzzle was soon solved. For I found a straw in one of the saucers. . . . This they had used as a bridge. ... I pushed the straw about an inch from the cupboard leg, when a terrible confusion arose. In a moment the leg immediately over the water was covered with hundreds of ants feeling for the bridge in every direction with their antennæ, running back again and coming in ever larger swarms, as though they had communicated to their companions within the cupboard the fourful misfortune that had taken place. Meanwhile the new comers continued to run along the straw, and not finding the leg of the cupboard, the greatest perplexity arose. They hurried along the edge of the saucer, and soon found where the fault lay. With united forces they pulled and pushed at the straw, until it again came into contact with the wood, and the communication was again restored.

The military ants, both in America and Africa, exhibit still more extraordinary resources in the way of bridge-making. Thus Belt says of the Ecitons: 'I once saw a wide column trying to pass along a crumbling, nearly perpendicular, slope. They would have got very slowly over it, and many of them would have fallen; but a number having secured their hold, and reaching to each other, remained stationary, and over them the main column passed. Another time they were crossing a watercourse along a small branch, not thicker than a goose quill. They widened this natural bridge to three times its VOL. X.-No. 54.


width by a number of ants clinging to it and to each other on each side, over which the column passed three or four deep; whereas, excepting for this expedient, they would have had to pass over in single file, and treble the time would have been consumed.' It is remarkable that the military or driving ants of Africa exhibit precisely similar devices for the bridging of streams as the Ecitons of America, namely, by forming a chain of individuals over which the others pass. By means of similar chains they also let themselves down from trees.

But of the Ecitops another and more recent observer gives an account of a yet more remarkable device, although no doubt a development of the one just described. This observer is Herr H. Kreplin, who lived for nearly twenty years in South America as an engineer, and often had the opportunity of watching the Ecitons. He writes to Büchner under date 1876 as follows :

If the watercourse be narrow, the thick-heads (officers) soon find trees, the branches of which meet on the bank of either side, and after a short halt the columns set themselves in motion over these bridges, rearranging themselves in a narrow train with marvellous quickness on reaching the further side. But if no natural bridge be available for the passage, they travel along the bank of the river until they arrive at a flat sandy shore. Each ant now seizes a bit of dry wood, pulls it into the water and mounts thereon The binder rows push the front ones ever further out, holding on to the wood with their feet and to their comrades with their jaws. In a short time the water is covered with ants, and when the raft has grown too large to be held together by the small creatures' strength, a part breaks off and begins the journey across, while the ants left on the bank busily pull their bits of wood into the water and work at enlarging the ferry-boat until it again breaks. This is repeated as long as an ant remains on shore.

I shall now bring these numerous instances to a close with a quotation from Belt, which reveals in a most unequivocal manner astonishing powers of observation and reason in the leaf-cutting ants of South America, the general habits of which we have already considered.

A nest was made near one of our tramways, and to get to the trees the ants had to cross the rails, over which the wagons were continually passing and repassing. Every time they came along a number of ants were crushed to death. They persevered in crossing for some time, but at last set to work and tunnelled underneath each rail. One day, when the wagons were not running, I stopped up the tunnels with stones; but although great numbers carrying leaves were thus cut off from the nest, they would not cross the rails, but set to work making fresh tunnels beneath them.

Such, then, are some of the more well-established facts regarding the intelligence of ants, and taken altogether they certainly seem to justify the remark of the most illustrious of naturalists— The brain of an ant is one of the most marvellous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of a man.'




It is just a quarter of a century since I resigned the curacy of a country parish in the east of England—where I had spent seven years of rural felicity and, let me hope, pastoral usefulness-and became a dweller in the streets. During the twenty-five years that have passed since then I have been emphatically a townsman; all my surroundings bave been those of town life-my sympathies have been appealed to by town people, and, where I have been brought into relation with the so-called working classes, these have been artisans whose days were passed in the workshops of the city, not tillers of the soil and tenders of the herds.

In the autumn of 1879 I was presented to the benefice I now hold. My friends all prophesied that I should find myself buried and die of dulness, but they were wrong. I have found no difficulty in throwing myself into the new life-or must I call it the old life?

of a country parson with real zest, and my return to my first love has brought with it such an abundant measure of fresh and pure delight as arouses in me more thankfulness than surprise.

But retaining, as I do, a vivid recollection of my seven years' apprenticeship in a country village; in that bygone age when the fourhorse coaches were not yet quite extinct—when the reaping machine was scarcely known—when the old men growled at the rapacity of the farmers who mowed their wheat instead of getting it hacked down with the sickle—when our parish was looked upon as extraordinarily favoured because it had a day school with a grown man, and a well-trained one, to teach the little ones—when there were church rates and a breakfast table groaning under the burden of taxation—and when we country folks used to brew our own beer and gazed with awe upon the rich rector who offered us claret after dinner, wondering how any income could stand it ; I am profoundly sensible of the change that has passed over village life since those early days, and, though some years off sixty still, I find myself in the position of Ryp van Wynkel or the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, the position of one who has been slumbering for half a lifetime in some old familiar haunts, and who has suddenly awoke to discover that the old order' with which he was so familiar has passed away and a new order become established.

If at the outset I seem to adopt a slightly egotistical tone, I must beg my reader to bear with me. A man's views on most subjects are inevitably tinged by the circumstances under which he makes his first start in life, and the opportunities he then enjoys of forming a correct estimate of his neighbours' habits and rules of conduct, and he who undertakes to express an opinion upon the moral or economical status of any class of the community may reasonably be called upon to show his credentials and to exhibit some evidence of his qualification for the office of critic. • What does this man know about it?' is a question that people who are found fault with are sure to ask.

I held the curacy of X- — for seven years under a man whose like I shall never see again. He was rich, he was cultured, he was devout; his life was passed in a loftier region of thought and aspiration than common men can wot of; but he was a philanthropist in advance of his time, who carried out into practice in a remote country village what other people were dreaming of, making speeches or writing books about, and getting to be considered great thinkers for taking such “large ideas' into their heads. He owned every acre of land in the parish, and if any human being ever realised the ideal of George Herbert's country parson the rector of X- - was that man. I have the best authority for saying that during those seven years when I was curate at X- the whole rent of the estate was spent upon improvements :-I think every cottage in the parish was rebuiltmany new ones were added-roads were made— land was drainedschools were erected—the church rebuilt from the foundations; and in the meantime, if the people were not all they ought to have been, it was not because all was not done to make them so, and I am bound to add it was not because it was not made worth their while to be so.

Our dear friend was a guileless saint whose whole soul was bent on raising us to his own level—but, alas ! it was too high pressure for most of us—he did raise us—but oh! such a little way. The neighbours did not like it. I often used to hear a sneer or a growl from those that ought to have known better. • The X— people were spoilt and spoiling others—they were not labourers at all. Many of them had actually an acre of land at a pound a year; the fellows actually kept donkey carts, and as for their cottages—What! three bedrooms and no lodgers allowed-why, not even a gardener or a gamekeeper would expect it-and then look at them, too-why, one of the fellows come to our church last Sunday with a real good greatcoat!

With the charge of X-, where the rector did at least half the work, I assisted also as curate of the neighbouring parish of Y— Here I had a very different sort of place to look after. In only one respect was Y— a more desirable parish ; it was a happy Goshen on the gravel-X— was on the clay ; in all other respects it was a dismal contrast to its neighbour. Squire there was none, nor anything like a gentleman save the rector; the land belonged to many owners, the farms were small and ill cultivated; the labourers' dwellings were mean and high-rented, and all belonged to small, needy proprietors; there was a good deal of noisy drunkenness—sometimes a fight, now and then a case of wife-beating; the village doctor lived seven miles off, though there was always fever, ague, and English cholera hanging about the place, and I had a great deal of dispensing to do, which I did with an audacity, careless of consequences, such as now makes me shudder to remember. •Did you really give a tumbler of soap and water to that child with the croup ?' said my dear rector to me once in his gentle way.—What was I to do? I had no ipecacuanha !' So the little maiden lived, and next winter stared with her round eyes while I emptied twelve grains of calomel on to a penny piece and turned it over on her father's tongue and cured him of the cholera. Any salivating?'-We never thought of that. Without hesitating, I should have met such a case with rhubarb and magnesia ! Sometimes a farmer would come to me sheepishly, early in the morning, with a new agreement which he was going to present to his landlord, as illiterate as himself, I used to correct the spelling, or point out a weak point, or offered this or that mild suggestion. Once or twice a family jar put two households at war, and there was a talk of going to law. We settled it by 'holding a court' after a fashion in my diminutive study, where once I remember fourteen men and women came and quarrelled and bawled for two hours, but ended by shaking hands, some tears being shed and some very strong language being used in the meantime. But there was always cordiality towards the young parson, whom the people trusted because he was known to be very poor, and was supposed to be able to understand the difficulties of making two ends meet on ten shillings a week. The result was that during those seven years I was on the most intimate terms with farmers and labourers. Incredible as it may appear, it is nevertheless a fact that I have even been consulted by a good old ranting preacher about the kind of sermon he ought to preach from a cart at the next camp meeting, and that my experience ranged from writing a letter to making a will, and from setting a bone to stopping a suicide.

I mention all these matters because I hold that it is hardly possible for a man who has once been en rapport with any class to lose altogether that subtle faculty-call it power or call it knackof making his way with that class, however long the interval may be during which he is separated from it; and I find that, as far as my • getting on 'with the peasantry is concerned, that comes to me as

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »