Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

In comparison with the Minims, these leaves and glowing balls of fruit into queens were as a human being one hun

the blue sky. dred feet in height.

Thus I followed the passing of one I selected one large queen as she ap- queen Atta into the jungle world, as far peared, and watched her closely. Slow- as human eyes would permit, and my ly and with great effort she climbed the mind returned to the mote which I had steep ascent into the blazing sunlight. detected at an equally great height Five tiny Minims were clinging to her the queen descending after her marbody and wings, all scrubbing and riage, as isolated as she had started. cleaning as hard as they could. She We have seen how the little blind chose a clear space, spread her wings roaches occasionally cling to an emergwide and flat, stood high upon her six ing queen and so are transplanted to a legs, and waited. I fairly shouted at new nest. But the queen bears some this change, for slight though it was, it thing far more valuable. More faithworked magic, and the queen Atta was fully than ever virgin tended temple a queen no more, but a miniature, strad- fires, each departing queen fills a little dle-legged aeroplane, pushed into posi- pouch in her mouth with a pellet of tion, and overrun by a crowd of me- the precious fungus, and here it is carechanics, putting the finishing touches, fully guarded until the time comes for tightening the wires, oiling every pli- its propagation in the new nest. able crevice. A Medium came along, When she has descended to earth and tugged at a leg, and the obliging little excavated a little chamber, she closes plane lifted it for inspection. For three the entrance, and for forty days and minutes this kept up, and then the nights labors at the founding of a new plane became a queen and moved rest- colony. She plants the little fungus lessly. Without warning, as if some cutting, and tends it with the utmost irresponsible mechanic had turned the solicitude. The care and feeding in her primed propellers, the four mighty past life have stored within her the subwings whirred and four Minims were stance for vast numbers of eggs. Nine hurled head over heels a foot away, out of ten that she lays she eats, to give snapped from their positions. The her the strength to go on with her labors; sound of the wings was almost too exact and when the first larvæ emerge, they an imitation of the snarl of a starting too are fed with surplus eggs. In time plane — the comparison was absurd in they pupate, and at the end of six weeks its exactness of timbre and resonance. the first workers — all tiny Minims —

It was only a test, however, and the hatch. Small as they are, born in darkmoment the queen became quiet, the ness, yet no education is needed. The upset mechanics clambered back. They Spirit of the Attas infuses them. Play crawled beneath her, scraped her feet and rest are the only things incompreand antennæ, licked her eyes and jaws, hensible to them, and they take charge and went over every shred of wing- at once of fungus, of excavation, of the tissue. Then again she buzzed, this care of the queen and eggs, the feeding time sendingonly a single Minim sprawl- of the larvæ. As soon as the huskier ing. Again she stopped, after lifting Mediums appear, they break through herself an inch, but immediately started into the upper world, and one day the up, and now rose rather unsteadily, but first bit of green leaf is carried down without pause, and slowly ascended into the nest. above the nest and the primroses. Cir- The queen rests. Henceforth, as far cling once, she passed through green 1 See Atlantic for July, 1921,

p.

52.

a

as we know, she becomes a mere egg- isolated organisms, are thrown off to producing machine, fed mechanically by found new nests. They, no less than mechanical workers, the food trans- the workers, are parts of something formed by physiological mechanics into more subtle than visible Attas and yolk, and then deposited. The aeroplane their material nest. Whether I go to has become transformed into an incu- the ant as sluggard, or myrmecologist, bator.

or accidentally via Pterodactyl Pups, a

day spent with them invariably leaves III

me with my whole being concentrated As we have seen, an Atta worker is a on this mysterious Atta Ego. Call it member of the most implacable labor- Vibration, Aura, Spirit of the Nest, – union in the world; he believes in a clothe ignorance in whatever term twenty-four hour day, no pay, no play, seemsappropriate, -wecannot deny its no rest — he is a cog in a machine existence and power. driven good-for-the-greatest-number. As with the army ants, the flowing After studying these beings for a week, lines of leaf-cutters always brought to one longs to go out and shout for kaisers mind great arteries, filled with pulsatand tsars, for selfishness and crime ing, tumbling corpuscles. When an obanything as a relief from such terrible struction appeared, as a fallen leaf, unthinking altruism. All Atta workers across the great sandy track, a dozen are born free and equal — which is or twenty, or a hundred workers well; and they remain so — which is gathered - like leucocytes — and re

— what a Buddhist priest once called moved the interfering object. If I ingashang (or so it sounded), and which jured a worker who was about to enter he explained as a state where plants and the nest, I inoculated the Atta organanimals and men were crystal-like in ism with a pernicious foreign body. growth and existence. What a welcome Even the victim himself was dimly sight it would be to see a Medium aware of the law of fitness. Again and mount a bit of twig, antennæ a crowd of again he yielded to the call of the nest, Minims about him, and start off on a only to turn aside at the last moment. foray of his own!

From a normal link in the endless Atta We may jeer at or condemn the Attas chain, he had become an outcast ! for their hard-shell existence, but there snapped at by every passing ant, selfcomes to mind, again and again, the banished, wandering off at nightfall, to wonder of it all. Are the hosts of little die somewhere in the wilderness of beings really responsible; have they not grass. When well, an Atta has relations, evolved into a pocket, a mental cul-de- but no friends; when ill, every jaw is sac, a swamping of individuality, pool- against him. ing their personalities?

As I write this seated at my laboraAnd what is it they have gained – tory table, by turning down my lamp

what pledge of success in food, in safety, and looking out, I can see the star-dust in propagation? They are not separate of Orion's nebula, and without moving entities; they have none of the freedom from my chair, Rigel, Sirius, Capella, of action, of choice, of individuality, of and Betelgeuze

and Betelgeuze — the blue, white, yelthe solitary wasps. They are the somat- low, and red evolution of so-called lifeic cells of the body politic, while deep less cosmic matter. A few slides from within the nest are the guarded sexual the aquarium at my side reveal an evocells — the winged kings and queens, lutionary sequence to the heavenly which, from time to time, exactly, as in

host - the simplest of earthly organ

a

а

isms playing fast and loose with the table. A servant had brought a cockborderland, not only of plants and ani- tail, for it was New Year's Eve (now mals, but of the-one and of the many- the thought came that there were a celled. First, a swimming lily, Stentor, number of worthy people who would a solitary animal bloom, twenty-five to also approve of this approximation!). the inch; Cothurnia, a double lily; and I looked at the small spirituous luxury, Gonium, with a quartette of cells cling- and I thought of my friends in New ing tremulously together — progressing York, and then of the Attas in front of unsteadily, materially, toward the rim the laboratory. With my electric flash of my field of vision, and, in the evo- I went out into the starlight, and found lution of earthly life, toward sponges, the usual hosts struggling nestward peripatus, men, and ants.

with their chlorophyll burdens, and I was interrupted in my microcosmus rushing frantically out into the black just as it occurred to me that Chester- jungle for more and yet more leaves. ton would heartily approve of my ap. My mind swept back over evolution proximation of Sirius and Stentor, of from star-dust to Kartabo compound, Capella and Cothurnia — the universe from Gonium to man, and to these leafbalanced. My attention was drawn cutting ants. And I wondered whether from the atom Gonium, whose brave the Attas were any better for being little spirit was striving to keep his four- denied the stimulus of temptation, or some one -- a primordial struggle to- whether I was any the worse for the ward unity of self and division of labor; opportunity of refusing a second glass. my consciousness climbed the micro- I went into the house, voiced a toast scope tube and came to rest upon a slim to tolerance, to temperance, and — to glass of amber liquid on my laboratory pterodactyls, and drank my cocktail.

[ocr errors]

YELLOW ROSES

BY EMMA LAWRENCE

[ocr errors]

They were talking about an embez- Reggie Forsyth said he knew a womzlement, the old story of a trusted em- an who did once he would tell them ployee, who had taken funds so cleverly about it if they liked. The little group and systematically for so long that he around the fire, who had just dined and had come to look upon his peculations as would eventually make up a table of a part of his salary. At last he had been bridge, assured him they did like; so he found out. Tina Metcalfe remarked told them this story. bromidically that people always were 'It happened a few years ago,' found out.

Forsyth said, 'and it happened a long ‘Do you suppose,' she asked, 'that way from here. The woman was the anyone ever really lived a lie and got wife of a mill agent in a little manufacaway with it - forever, I mean?' turing town. Where she came from, I

a

don't know; she was certainly not bred thought she was "touched,” and were in those parts; no one there had ever kinder to her than she knew. They seen her like. Had she been in society ceased to criticize her and made it easy or on the stage, her beauty would have for her to be alone. In the summer-time made her famous; but her fellow towns- she would take her book and her lunchpeople merely thought her odd, she was basket and tramp the fields and woods so amazingly unconventional and so till she found some spot she could love, astonishingly unprovincial. She did as and spend the days with her dreams she chose, as a duchess might have done. and her long, long thoughts. But the ‘One wonders where the little chap evenings belonged to her man; though

; she married ever found her, or why she what they found in common I cannot. appealed to him. He was a good little guess. chap enough, absorbed in his work and ‘But one day on her walk she had an in the life of the town, delighted with adventure. She found a field she liked his house, and heartbroken because no liked because it was flushed with children had ever come to it. Ugly little hardhack and white with meadow-sweet, man he was, too, and quite typical of and inhabited by a man whose type was his class; repeated your name when he unknown to her. Any of you would met you; said, “Pleased to meet you," have placed him quickly enough; his and “Excuse my glove,” just where, riding togs and English boots would according to his lights, he should have. have marked him for you a young

‘And she she was like a wild bird blood who had come a cropper among caged, a woods-flower set in a border of the hardhack and meadow-sweet. But zinnias and asters, a well-kept border to her he was new; his looks and his where one would not expect to find a clothes and his opening remark to her weed, however rare. She was slender, were all quite different. and long-limbed, shapeless as a young

""I've lost my horse," he said genboy; her neck was slim and white, and ially. She looked curious, which apparher head small and wonderfully set. ently encouraged him. “I don't mind, She had a great mass of reddish hair, he said. “He was a horrid horse." She short, thick, curly hair,—but her lashes looked about her. “You won't see him," were long and black.

said the man; “he could run most aw‘ 'No wonder the townspeople dis- fully fast.” approved of her; they bored her, and 'It occurred to her that he had fallen when her husband insisted that they off. “Are you hurt?" she asked. should continue to bore her by forcing ““Thanks, not a bit. This is a jolly her into their society, she became field, is n't it?" extremely ill. Then he became almost “I like it,” she said. frantic, for he adored her and would “Blueberry-picking?” he suggested, trust her to none but the greatest doc- looking at her basket. tor he could discover; and the doctor 'She shook her head. “No, just proved himself great by his diagnosis, lunch."

” for he told the man that nothing ailed “Picnicking! By Jove, what luck. his wife but that her life did n't suit Falling makes one so frightfully hungry, her, and that she must be left freer, to

” choose one more congenial. So after 'She did n't know, but she believed that she was let alone, free to find the him and invited him to share her meal. country that surrounded the town, to They found a shady place, and in the walk, to run, to read. The townspeople course of time discovered many things

a

you know."

9

about each other. He was staying at a danced and dined. But oftener he told country house with people she knew by her about herself — how lovely she was, sight - knew their traps and their and how lovable. They were very much grooms when she saw them outside in love before long, and she showed shops in the town; knew what the town a curious courage in her determination people had chosen to tell of them and of that, having missed so much, this should their ways. He discovered more about not pass her by. her. And he found her book.

“So they lived to the utmost while ““Masefield, Daffodil Fields," he said; the fair weather lasted. The third day “do they read that — in the town?” he met her, he brought her a yellow rose “"No," she said, "I read it - in the from the garden of his hostess.

— woods.”

““I searched the garden,” he told “Oh, no, you don't; I read it to her, “to find what flower you are like. you." .

This is it." 'So he began and read for a while; “So every day she wore a yellow rose and he read delightfully, for he had a tucked in her gown. pleasant voice and he loved what he ‘At last the weather broke, and he read. But by and by he put down the went back to the city, and she no book and they talked for a while, of longer could roam the fields and woods. books and of themselves again. It was She drooped like a flower in the long a wonderful day for her — a surprise to wet autumn, confined to the house; and find the things she cared for were loved though nothing ever ailed her very by others, and that she was not really much, she died before the winter was "odd" at all. By and by it was time to half through! “” go home, before her man should come 'Her husband was beside himself from his work. But they made plans for with grief, and the neighbors who had the morrow, or, should the morrow not bored her came and looked on her when be fine, for the day after.

she was dead. Her husband had filled 'It happened they were in for a spell her hands with yellow roses. of fair weather, and they spent long ““She loved them so," he told his hours together in the fields and in the friends; "all summer long she wore woods. They read books together, and them in her dress." he told her of cities and of life in the cities, and of people he knew, people So that,' said Reggie Forsyth, 'is who would not have bored her and the story of a woman who lived a lie, made her ill. He told her of music, and yet no one ever knew.' art and architecture, and stories of ‘Yet you knew,' said Tina Metcalfe hunting and balls and dinner-parties, quickly — and wished she had bitten and about the women who hunted and out her tongue before she spoke.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »