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step forth suddenly before the world's eye, cap-a-pie, in shining armor, becoming men of renown in the fight of faith, or the weary marches of science. We have a strong inclination to set up for one of these vulgar Newtons ourselves, with the permission of the benevolent reader, as we are about to be guilty of an audacious speculation—and if we were not perhaps as much in joke as in earnest, we might be glad to deprecate responsibility, on the plea of “unsophisticated genius,” &c.; but though one sense of “unsophisticated" may suit us well enough, yet we hardly dare to claim shelter under any other sense of a name so sacred in the mythos of human hope.
It may be only one of those dreams which, like the poet's ideal, haunts men from and in boyhood. We were then, as is usual, much fonder of the great wide pages, shadowy, waving, glittering and green, of nature's writing, than all the black-letter tomes that ever wearied eye of scholar. And while a scape-grace and hopeless truant, we paddled, bare-foot, , through the pebbly brook, tore our juvenile trousers climbing for young squirrels, or winning a freckled necklace of birds' eggs for our blue-eyed sweetheart. We had a faint conception that the language we read there should be translated! Not that which we read in the blue eyes, specially, do we mean; but on the general page of the living revelation ; for as we said our incorrigible visuals would not even
; then permit us to see that Reason and Instinct were altogether unlike.
We took in our hands a definition of Reason, accepted by the sages, and went out among these sentient, breathing forms of life, condemned by them to the blind guidance and fatality of Instinct, that we might compare the theory of one with the reality of the other.
The song-bird twittered at us; the wild deer turned to stare; the squirrel sputtered from his nut-crammed jaws, and the insects buzzed curiously around us—for the story got out that there was "a chiel amang 'em takin' notes," and they
" did not understand but that we meant them some imperti
nence; but they soon found out that we were harmless, at least, and grew reconciled.
Many a calm hour we spent among the cool, dim aisles of the mighty forests, still as the dark trunks around us, watching now the Baltimore oriole with coy taste, select a twig to hang her cradle from, and when her motherly care was satisfied that a particular one hung clear beyond the reach of the dreaded snake, or mischievous climbers, one and all, -that there was a tuft of leaves above it, which would precisely shield it from the noontide sun—then commences her airy fabric.
How ingeniously she avails herself of the forks and notches to twist the first important thread around! How housewife-like she plaits and weaves the grassy fibres! The unmanageable horse-hair, too, is used; how soberly she plies her long, sharp bill and delicate feet! Now she drops that thread as too rotten to be trusted, and reprovingly sends off her careless, chattering mate to get another. He is proud of his fine coat, and dissipates his time in carolling; but in her prudent creed, sweet songs won't build a home for the little folk, and so she very properly makes the idle fellow work.
At last, after a deal of sewing, webbing, roofing,—and scolding, too, the while—the house is finished, thatch, door, and all. The softest velvet from the mullen stalk must line it now; and then elate upon the topmost bough, she silently upturns her bill toward heaven, while her mate pours forth their joy for labors done, in thrilling gushes!
In those old times, sitting upon a gnarled root, I would bend for hours over some thronged city of the ants. Why, how is this? Here from the great entrance-roads branch off on every side. How clean, and smooth, and regular, they are! See, yonder is a dead limb fallen across the course. Amazement! A tunnel! A tunnel! they have sunk it beneath the obstruction too heavy for the power of their mechanics! Follow the winding track. See, that thick turf of grass! It
is easier to go round it than to cut through it. And there, behold a mountain pebble in the way; see how the road is made to sweep in a free curve round the base.
Lay now that small stone across the narrow way! See ! The common herd—the stream of dull-eyed laborers—how they are confounded by the interruption. They fall back upon each other-all is confusion. The precious burdens they bore with so much care, are dropped—to and fro they run -all is consternation and alarm.
But look! That portly, lazy fellow, who seemed to have nothing to do but to strut back and forth in the sun, now wakes up. He rushes to the scene. All give way from his path, and close crowdingly in his wake. He is one evidently having authority. He climbs
He climbs upon the stone; runs over it rapidly; measures it with his antennæ; and down he glides among the still, expectant crowd. Here, there, yonder, everywhere, in a moment—he selects among the multitude those best fitted for the purpose with which his sagacious head is full—touches them with the antennæ of command, and each one, obedient, hurries to the stone.
No more confusion—every one is in his place awaiting orders, not daring to begin yet. He is back now to the stone. The signal is given! Each of the selected workers lay hold of it. See, how they tug and strain !
What? Not strength enough. An additional number are chosen. They seize hold. Now they moveit! My lord, the overscer does not put a hand to it himself, or a pincer either, -but, see how he plays round, keeps the crowd out of the way, and directs the whole.
It is done! The stone is rolled out from the highway, and we will not put another one on it; it is cruel thus to use our giant's strength like a giant, and we are satisfied. The little laborers resume their burdens; away they go streaming on to the citadel; while the great man relapses suddenly into the old air of sluggish dignity.
But follow that road; it leads an hundred yards-clearly
traceable through, above, under, around, all impediments ; here the main road branches off, and is lost, or it ends at the tree with many insects on its bark, or at some great deposit of favorite food that has been found; and all this pains and labor have been expended in digging that road to secure the convenience of transportation !
Talk of your Simplon or your Erie Canal, or your hundreds of miles of human railroads! Wonderful Instinct, indeed!
Dig away the earth carefully, and look into that subterranean city. Here are streets, galleries, arches and domes, bridges, granaries, nurseries, walls, rooms of state—aye, palaces—cells for laborers, all the features and fixtures, diverse and infinite of a peopled city of humanity!
But see, a war has broken out with a neighboring city! Marvellous sight! The eager legions pour in a black flood from the gates. The chief men and captains of the people distinguished, not by plumes and stars, and orders, but by their greater size, and the formidable strength of their pincers. They are marshalled into bands—they know the strength of discipline and military science! In one wide, sweeping, unbroken line, they pour upon the enemy's town.
The fight is desperate—hand to hand-pincer to pincer; for it is a battle for dear life-liberty and larvæ! The vanquished are dragged into slavery; the larvæ carried off and tenderly nourished by the conquerors, and when they grow up are made helots of, hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Strangely elastic Instinct this! It we combine, compare, deduce—is not there something like combination, comparison, deduction, here?
The mocking bird is, in many respects, characterized by the most remarkable sagacity. We watched a pair of them once build their nest in a low thorn bush, growing in what is called a “sink-hole,” in the West. This had once or twice been filled with water by the heavy rains, but at long intervals.
This year the flood came. The birds had hatched, and four little downy, yellow, gaping mouths could be seen in the nest. The water commenced rising very rapidly in the sink. The birds became uneasy; they fluttered and screamed, and made a wonderful to-do. At last one of them flew down to the last twig above the rising water. He sat there looking closely at it till it rose about his feet, and then, suddenly, with a loud chirp, flew away, followed by the mate.
We thought they had deserted their young. " Unnatural creatures !" I exclaimed. And if a gun had been convenient, I think I should have had no scruple in shooting them.
In about half-an-hour the water had risen to the bottom of the nest I when, suddenly to my joy and penitent shame, the birds were back, flew down into the nest and off again! each bearing a young one. They were not gone a minute, when, straight as the flight of an arrow, and as swift, they were back, the other two little ones were carried off, and in a minute the nest was afloat.
Close calculation, that! I followed in the direction they went, and, after some search, found the callow family safe and snug in an old nest, which they had prepared for their reception, as soon as they became convinced the water must reach them. Instinct must have wide play, indeed, to account for this.
I saw a large, heavy cockroach, fully an inch long, fall into the web of a small spider. The great weight of the insect, with the height from which it fell, was sufficient to tear through the web, and it would have fallen clear, but that the long, sharp claws, which arm the extremities of the hindmost pair of legs, gathered a sufficient quantity of the fibres as they rolled down the net, to sustain the weight of the cock. roach, who thus hung dangling by the heels, head downwards, and the body free.
Out rushed the little spider, not so large as a cherry-stone. What could it do with such a monster? You shall see.