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an unknown tongue; but I listened, though I ventured my protest.
'In India, in this strange country where men have time and will for speculation, such thoughts may be natural. Can they be found in the West?'
"This is from the West- might not Kabir himself have said it? Certainly he would have felt it. "Happy is he who seeks not to understand the Mystery of God, but who, merging his spirit into thine, sings to thy Face, O Lord, like a harp, understanding how difficult it is to know-how easy to love Thee." We debate and argue, and the Vision passes us by. We try to prove it, and kill it in the laboratory of our minds, when on the altar of our souls it will dwell forever.'
Silence and I pondered. Finally she laid the book aside and repeated from memory and in a tone of perfect music: 'Kabir says, "I shall go to the
When she left me alone, the old doubts came back the fear that I saw only through her eyes; and I began to believe in joy, only because I loved her. I remember that I wrote in the little book that I kept for my stray thoughts these words, which are not mine but reflect my vision of her.
"Thine is the skill of the Fairy Woman, and the virtue of St. Bride, and the faith of Mary the Mild, and the gracious way of the Greek woman, and the beauty of lovely Emer, and the tenderness of heart-sweet Deirdré, and the courage of Maev the great Queen, and the charm of Mouth-of-Music.'
Yes, all that and more; but I feared lest I should see the heaven of joy through her eyes only, and find it mirage, as I had found so much else. (To be concluded)
THE ATTAS-A JUNGLE LABOR-UNION
BY WILLIAM BEEBE
PTERODACTYL PUPS led me to the wonderful Attas—the most astounding of the jungle labor-unions. We were all sitting on the Mazaruni bank, the night before the full moon, immediately in front of my British Guiana laboratory. All the jungle was silent in the white light, and only a big fish broke now and then. On the end of the bench was the monosyllabic Scot, who ceased the exquisite painting of mora but
tresses and jungle shadows only for the equal fascination of searching bats for parasites. Then the great physician, who had come six thousand miles to peer into the eyes of birds and lizards in my dark-room, working with a gentle hypnotic manner that made the little beings seem to enjoy the experience. On my right sat an army captain, who had given more thought to the possible secrets of French chaffinches than to
the approaching barrage. There was also the artist, who could draw a lizard's head like a Japanese print, but preferred to depict impressionistic Laocoön roots. These and others sat with me on the long bench and watched the moonpath. The conversation had begun with possible former life on the moon, then shifted to Conan Doyle's Lost World, based on the great Roraima plateau, a hundred and fifty miles west of where we were sitting. Then we spoke of the amusing world-wide rumor, which had started no one knows how, that I had recently discovered a pterodactyl. One delightful result of this had been a letter from a little English girl, which would have made a worthy chapter-subject for Dream Days. For years she and her little sister had peopled a wood near her home with pterodactyls, but had somehow never quite seen one; and would I tell her a little about them-whether they had scales, or made nests; so that those in the wood might be a little easier to recognize.
When strange things are discussed for a long time, in the light of a tropical moon, at the edge of a dark, whispering jungle, the mind becomes singularly imaginative and receptive; and, as I looked through powerful binoculars at the great suspended globe, the dead craters and precipices became very vivid and near. Suddenly, without warning, there flapped into my field, a huge shapeless creature. It was no bird, and there was nothing of the bat in its flight the wings moved with steady rhythmical beats, and drove it straight onward. The wings were skinny, the body large and of a pale ashy hue. For a moment I was shaken. One of the others had seen it, and he, too, did not speak, but concentrated every sense into the end of the little tubes. By the time I had begun to find words, I realized that a giant fruit bat had
flown from utter darkness across my line of sight; and by close watching we soon saw others. But for a very few seconds these Pterodactyl Pups, as I nicknamed them, gave me all the thrill of a sudden glimpse into the life of past ages. The last time I had seen fruit bats was in the gardens of Perideniya, Ceylon. I had forgotten that they occurred in Guiana, and was wholly unprepared for the sight of bats a yard across, with a heron's flight, passing high over the Mazaruni in the moonlight.
The talk ended on the misfortune of the configuration of human anatomy, which makes sky-searching so uncomfortable a habit. This outlook was probably developed to a greater extent during the war than ever before; and I can remember many evenings in Paris and London when a sinister half-moon kept the faces of millions turned searchingly upward. But whether in city or jungle, sky-scanning is a neck-aching affair.
The following day my experience with the Pterodactyl Pups was not forgotten, and as a direct result of looking out for soaring vultures and eagles, with hopes of again seeing a whiteplumaged King and the regal Harpy, I caught sight of a tiny mote high up in mid-sky. I thought at first it was a martin or swift; but it descended, slowly spiraling, and became too small for any bird. With a final, long, descending curve, it alighted in the compound of our bungalow laboratory and rested quietly—a great queen of the leafcutting Attas returning from her marriage flight. After a few minutes she stirred, walked a few steps, cleaned her antennæ, and searched nervously about on the sand. A foot away was a tiny sprig of indigo, the offspring of some seed planted two or three centuries ago by a thrifty Dutchman. In the shade of its three leaves the insect paused, and
at once began scraping at the sand with her jaws. She loosened grain after grain, and as they came free they were moistened, agglutinated, and pressed back against her fore-legs. When at last a good-sized ball was formed, she picked it up, turned around and, after some fussy indecision, deposited it on the sand behind her. Then she returned to the very shallow, round depression, and began to gather a second ball.
I thought of the first handful of sand thrown out for the base of Cheops, of the first brick placed in position for the Great Wall, of a fresh-cut trunk, roughhewn and squared for a log-cabin on Manhattan; of the first shovelful of earth flung out of the line of the Panama Canal. Yet none seemed worthy of comparison with even what little I knew of the significance of this ant's labor, for this was earnest of what would make trivial the engineering skill of Egyptians, of Chinese patience, of municipal pride and continental schism.
Imagine sawing off a barn-door at the top of a giant sequoia, growing at the bottom of the Grand Cañon, and then, with five or six children clinging to it, descending the tree, and carrying it up the cañon walls against a subway rush of rude people, who elbowed and pushed blindly against you. This is what hundreds of leaf-cutting ants accomplish daily, when cutting leaves from a tall bush, at the foot of the bank near the laboratory.
There are three dominant laborunions in the jungle, all social insects, two of them ants, never interfering with each other's field of action, and all supremely illustrative of conditions resulting from absolute equality, freeand-equalness, communalism, socialism carried to the (forgive me!) anth power. The Army Ants are carnivorous, predatory, militant nomads; the Termites are vegetarian scavengers, sedentary, negative and provincial; the Attas, or leaf
cutting ants, are vegetarians, active and dominant, and in many ways the most interesting of all.
The casual observer becomes aware of them through their raids upon gardens; and indeed the Attas are a very serious menace to agriculture in many parts of the tropics, where their nests, although underground, may be as large as a house and contain millions of individuals. While their choice among wild plants is exceedingly varied, it seems that there are certain things they will not touch; but when any humanreared flower, vegetable, shrub, vine, or tree is planted, the Attas rejoice, and straightway desert the native vegetation to fall upon the newcomers. Their whims and irregular feeding habits make it difficult to guard against them. They will work all round a garden for weeks, perhaps pass through it en route to some tree that they are defoliating, and then suddenly, one night, every Atta in the world seems possessed with a desire to work havoc, and at daylight the next morning, the garden looks like winter stubble – a vast expanse of stems and twigs, without a single remaining leaf. Volumes have been written, and a whole chemist's shop of deadly concoctions devised, for combating these ants, and still they go steadily on, gathering leaves which, as we shall see, they do not even use for food.
Although essentially a tropical family, Attas have pushed as far north as New Jersey, where they make a tiny nest, a few inches across, and bring to it bits of pine needles.
In a jungle Baedeker, we should double-star these insects, and paragraph them as 'Atta, named by Fabricius in 1804; two Kartabo species, sexdens and cephalotes; Leaf-cutting or Cushie or Parasol Ants; very abundant. Atta, a subgenus of Atta, which is a genus of Attii, which is a tribe of Myrmicina, which is a subfamily of Formicida,' etc.
With a feeling of slightly greater intimacy, of mental possession, we set out, armed with a name of one hundred and seventeen years' standing, and find a big Atta worker carving away at a bit of leaf, exactly as his ancestors had done for probably one hundred and seventeen thousand years.
We gently lift him from his labor, and a drop of chloroform banishes from his ganglia all memory of the hundred thousand years of pruning. Under the lens his strange personality becomes manifest, and we wonder whether the old Danish zoölogist had in mind the slender toe-tips which support him, or in a chuckling mood made him a namesake of C. Quintius Atta. A close-up shows a very comic little being, encased in a prickly, chestnut-colored armor, which should make him fearless in a den of a hundred anteaters. The front view of his head is a bit mephistophelian, for it is drawn upward into two horny spines; but the side view recalls a little girl with her hair brushed very tightly up and back from her face.
The connection between Atta and the world about him is furnished by this same head: two huge, flail-shaped antennæ arching up like aerial, detached eyebrows-vehicles, through their golden pile, of senses which foil our most delicate tests. Outside of these are two little shoe-button eyes; and we are not certain whether they reflect to the head ganglion two or three hundred bits of leaf, or one large mosaic leaf. Below all is swung the pair of great scythes, so edged and hung that they can function as jaws, rip-saws, scissors, forceps, and clamps. The thorax, like the head of a titanothere, bears three pairs of horns a great irregular expanse of tumbled, rock-like skin and thorn, a foundation for three pairs of long legs, and sheltering somewhere in its heart a thread of ant-life; finally, two little pedicels lead to a rounded
abdomen, smaller than the head. This Third-of-an-inch is a worker Atta to the physical eye; and if we catch another, or ten, or ten million, we find that some are small, others much larger, but that all are cast in the same mould, all indistinguishable except, perhaps, to the shoebutton eyes.
When a worker has traveled along the Atta trails, and has followed the temporary mob-instinct and climbed bush or tree, the same irresistible force drives him out upon a leaf. Here, apparently, instinct slightly loosens its hold, and he seems to become individual for a moment, to look about, and to decide upon a suitable edge or corner of green leaf. But even in this he probably has no choice. At any rate, he secures a good hold and sinks his jaws into the tissue. Standing firmly on the leaf, he measures his distance by cutting across a segment of a circle, with one of his hind feet as a centre. This gives a very true curve, and provides a leaf-load of suitable size. He does not scissor his way across, but bit by bit sinks the tip of one jaw, hook-like, into the surface, and brings the other up to it, slicing through the tissue with surprising ease. He stands upon the leaf, and I always expect to see him cut himself and his load free, Irishman-wise. But one or two of his feet have invariably secured a grip on the plant, sufficient to hold him safely. Even if one or two of his fellows are at work farther down the leaf, he has power enough in his slight grip to suspend all until they have finished and clambered up over him with their loads.
Holding his bit of leaf edge-wise, he bends his head down as far as possible, and secures a strong purchase along the very rim. Then, as he raises his head, the leaf rises with it, suspended high over his back, out of the way. Down
the stem or tree-trunk he trudges, head first, fighting with gravitation, until he reaches the ground. After a few feet, or, measured by his stature, several hundred yards, his infallible instinct guides him around pebble boulders, mossy orchards, and grass jungles to a specially prepared path.
Thus in words, in sentences, we may describe the cutting of a single leaf; but only in the imagination can we visualize the cell-like or crystal-like duplication of this throughout all the great forests of Guiana and of South America. As I write, a million jaws snip through their stint; as you read, ten million Attas begin on new bits of leaf. And all in silence and in dim light, legions passing along the little jungle roads, unending lines of trembling banners, a political parade of ultra socialism, a procession of chlorophyll floats illustrating unreasoning unmorality, a fairy replica of 'Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.'
In their leaf-cutting, Attas have mastered mass, but not form. I have never seen one cut off a piece too heavy to carry, but many a hard-sliced bit has had to be deserted because of the configuration of the upper edge. On almost any trail, an ant can be found with a two-inch stem of grass, attempting to pass under a twig an inch overhead. After five or ten minutes of pushing, backing, and pushing, he may accidentally march off to one side, or reach up and climb over; but usually he drops his burden. His little works have been wound up, and set at the mark 'home'; and though he has now dropped the prize for which he walked a dozen antmiles, yet any idea of cutting another stem, or of picking up a slice of leaf from those lying along the trail, never occurs to him. He sets off homeward, and if any emotion of sorrow, regret, disappointment, or secret relief troubles his ganglia, no trace of it appears
I once watched an ant with a piece of leaf which had a regular shepherd's crook at the top, and if his adventures of fifty feet could have been caught on a moving-picture film, Charlie Chaplin would have had an arthropod rival. It hooked on stems and pulled its bearer off his feet, it careened and ensnared the leaves of other ants, at one place mixing up with half a dozen. A big thistledown became tangled in it, and well-nigh blew away with leaf and all; hardly a foot of his path was smooth-going. But he persisted, and I watched him reach the nest, after two hours of tugging and falling and interference with traffic.
Occasionally an ant will slip in crossing a twiggy crevasse, and his leaf become tightly wedged. After sprawling on his back and vainly clawing at the air for a while, he gets up, brushes off his antennæ, and sets to work. For fifteen minutes I have watched an Atta in this predicament, stodgily endeavoring to lift his leaf while standing on it at the same time. The equation of push equaling pull is fourth dimensional to the Attas.
With all this terrible expenditure of energy, the activities of these ants are functional within very narrow limits. The blazing sun causes them to drop their burdens and flee for home; a heavy wind frustrates them, for they cannot reef. When a gale arises and sweeps an exposed portion of the trail, their only resource is to cut away all sail and heave it overboard. A sudden