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13. The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring. Here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
“Do you perhaps mean," I asked, “ that the fish has symmetrical sides and paired organs ?”
His thoroughly pleased “Of course! of course!” repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night.
After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically, as he always did, upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.
“O, look at your fish!” he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
14. “That is good! that is good!” he repeated, “ but that is not all; go on.” And so for three long days he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. • Look, look, look !” was his repeated injunction.
This was the best entomological lesson I ever had, a lesson whose influence has extended to the details of every subsequent study, - a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, and with which we can
XXXIV. – THE BATTLE OF THE ANTS.
1. One day when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants, the one red, the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with one another. Having once got hold, they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly.
2. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants; that it was not a duellum, but a bellum — a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my wood-yard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and dying, both red and black.
3. It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed, the only battle-field I ever trod while the battle was raging; internecine war— the red republicans on the one hand, and the black imperialists on the other. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear; and human soldiers never fought so resolutely
4. I watched a couple that were fast locked in each other's embrace, in a little sunny valley amid the chips, now at noonday prepared to fight till the sun went down or life went out. The smaller red champion had fastened himself like a vise to his adversary's front, and through all the tumblings on that field never for an instant ceased to gnaw at one of his feelers near the root, having already caused the other to go by the board; while the stronger black one dashed him from side to side, and, as I saw on looking nearer, had already divested him of several of his members.
5. They fought with more pertinacity than bull-dogs. Neither manifested the least disposition to retreat. It was evident that their battle-cry was “ Conquer, or die!" In the meanwhile, there came along a single red ant on the hill-side of this valley, evidently full of excitement, who either had dispatched his foe, or had not yet taken part in the battle — probably the latter, for he had lost none of his limbs — whose mother had charged him to return with his shield or upon it.
6. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who had nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his Patroclus. He saw this unequal combat from afar — for the blacks were nearly twice the size of the reds. He drew near with rapid pace till he stood on his guard within half an inch of the combatants; then, watching his opportunity, he sprang upon the black warrior, and commenced his operations near the root of his right fore leg, leaving the foe to select among his own members; and so there were three united for life, as if a new kind of attraction had been invented which put all other locks and cements to shame.
7. I should not have wondered by this time to find that they had their respective musical bands stationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national airs the while, to excite the slow and cheer the dying combatants. I was myself excited somewhat, even as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less the difference. And certainly there is not the fight recorded in Concord history at least, if in the history of America, that will bear a moment's comparison with this, whether for the numbers engaged in it, or for the patriotism and heroism displayed.
8. For numbers and for carnage it was an Austerlitz or Dresden. I have no doubt that it was a principle they fought for, as much as our ancestors, and not to avoid a three-penny tax on their tea; and the results of this battle will be as important and memorable to those whom it concerns, as those of the battle of Bunker Hill, at least.
9. I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly described were struggling, carried it into my house, and placed it under a tumbler on my window-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a microscope to the first-mentioned red ant, I saw that, though he was assiduously gnawing at the near fore leg of his enemy, having severed his remaining feeler, his own breast was all torn away, exposing what vitals he had there to the jaws of the black warrior, whose breastplate was apparently too thick for him to pierce; and the dark carbuncles of the sufferer's eyes shone with ferocity such as war only could excite.
10. They struggled half an hour longer under the tumbler, and when I looked again the black soldier had severed the heads of his foes from their bodies, and the still living heads were hanging on either side of him like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow, still apparently
as firmly fastened as ever, and he was endeavoring with feeble struggles, being without feelers and with only the remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other wounds, to divest himself of them; which at length, after half an hour more, he accomplished. I raised the glass, and he went off over the window-sill in that crippled state. Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the remainder of his days in some Hôtel des Invalides, I do not know; but I thought that his industry would not be worth much thereafter. I never learned which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war; but I felt for the rest of that day as if I had had my feelings excited and harrowed by witnessing the struggle, the ferocity and carnage, of a human battle before my door.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
XXXV. - THE FIRST NIGHT AT SEA.
“With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the crew; and we hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor for the night. The next morning was Saturday; and, a breeze having sprung up from the southward, we took a pilot on board, hove up our anchor, and began beating down the bay.
2. I took leave of those of my friends who came to see me off, and had barely opportunity to take a last look at the city and well-known objects, as no time is allowed on board ship for sentiment. As we drew