Imatges de pÓgina


their body are perfectly supple and flexible. it is difficult to believe in the action of an It was at first supposed that their preser- antiseptic liquid. Life, we feel assured, vation was owing to the coolness of the must still be there, although latent and soil, and the absence of light and air. But passive. Life only, still resisting the dethere must be some other cause of their in-structive invasion of chemical forces, can corruptibility, since twenty-four hours after thus preserve an organism from decompothe death of a beetle in summer its internal sition. Life is still there, minus sensibility organs are either dried up or decomposed. and motion. We have before us a marvel The female cerceris, like the great majority which neither ether nor chloroform are of the hymenopteræ, is furnished with a capable of effecting, and for whose cause sting and a poison-bag, and the guess was we must refer to the mysterious laws of the natural that the subtle liquid which in- nervous system. flicted death possessed antiseptic properties, The important point was to ascertain the preventing putrefaction. No one suspected way in which the murder was committed. that the captured and doomed buprestes With some difficulty, M. Fabre succeeded were not really dead.

in surprising the assassin in the fact. The The real truth was discovered by M. cerceris thrust her poisoned dart two or Fabre, while observing the proceedings of three times into the joint of the weevil's the tuberculated cerceris, the largest Euro prothorax, between the first and second pean species, and divulged by him in the pair of legs. In the twinkling of an eye Annales des Sciences Naturelles. This the deed was done. Without the slightest cerceris excavates its burrows, and stores convulsive pang, without any of those them with food during the last half of twitchings of the limbs which accompany September. Instead of a flat footpath, it an animal's dying agony, the victim fell selects a vertical bank, but is not particular motionless forever, as if struck by lightning. about the quality of the soil if it be but The stroke was terrible and admirable in dry, and have a sunny aspect. The gal its rapidity. Instantly the victor turned leries are entirely the work of the females, the vanquished on its back, seized it and who do not disdain to save themselves flew off with it to her hidden den. By the trouble by repairing burrows of the pre- effect of a microscopic puncture and an ceding year.

imperceptible drop of liquid, the weevil inThe victim selected by this cerceris is stantly lost all power of motion. But a large species of the weevil tribe, the chemistry possesses no such subtle poison ; Cleonis ophthalmicus. If the Bupresticide consequently, we must inquire for the cerceris, without going beyond the limits cause at the hands of anatomy and physiof a genus, indiscriminately captures any ology. And to comprehend the mystery of the species of that genus, the tuber we must consider not so much the subtlety culated cerceris, more exclusive, confines of the inoculated venom as the importance itself to a single species. One is curious of the wounded organs, which are precisely to know the motives which infinence so the thoracic ganglions, whence spring the singular and decided a choice. There may nerves which preside over all the motions be differences of flavour and of nutritious of the creature's wings and legs. qualities in the respective game, which the The cerceres who, with a single stroke, larvæ doubtless appreciate, but the mother benumb the animal functions of their prey, insect is probably guided by anatomical select precisely those species in which this rather than gastronomical considerations. nervous centralisation is the most com.

After what M. Dufour has told us re- plete. The buprestes suit them, because specting the wonderful preservation of the the nervous centres of the mesothorax insects destined to feed carniverons larvæ, and the metathorax are confounded in it is needless to add that the weevils de one single mass; the weevil suits them, posited in the burrows or captive in the because the three thoracic ganglions lie claws of their mortal enemy, although de- very close together, the two last even prived for ever of all power of motion, are touching each other. The grand puzzle as completely untainted as when alive and still remains unsolved: Who taught the active. Vivid hues, supple joints, healthy assassin cerceres these refined secrets of viscera, all conspire to make us doubt that anatomy? the inert body lying before us is a veritable The cerceres are not the only insects corpse, and we look at it with the expecta- who display a like manifestation of martion that we shall see the insect get up and vellous foresight. The wasp family includes, walk away. In the presence of such facts, besides the species which live in large com


munities and build complex nests, like the metamorphosis, tears open his chrysalis hornet and the common wasp, others which shell with his teeth, shakes, unfolds, and lead a solitary life. One of these, the essays his wings, and then launches boldly Odynerus spinipes, performs its task be- into air and sunshine. tween the end of May and the beginning of “What admirable maternal instinct!" July. Its first operation is to excavate a some will exclaim. Others, looking further, burrow, in clayey soil or stiff loam, at the will add, “What marvellous providential further end of which it fashions a cell, combination !" plastering it neatly with home - made mortar. Each cell receives one egg.

AN AUTUMN DAWN. The odynerus is a jack-of-all-trades.

THE sun-mist spreads a woof of quivering gold After working as a mason, it now plays On the blue mountain-tops, and o'er the crest the sportsman, beating the lucerne fields Of mighty Skiddaw, seamed with many a scar for the larvæ of a weevil. As soon as

By the fierce storms of ages, lies a cloud,

A crimson cloud, gold-fringed, and beautiful, caught, it inflicts on each a wound which, As is Aurora's brow, when from her couch without killing, paralyses them, arrests

She, rosy-fingered, rises radiant,

Veiling her white limbs from the God of Day. their growth, and retains them in the con

Upon the armoured furze the cunning work dition of living prey, incapable of resist

Of spiders spreads its silver tracery, ing the worm which is to feed on them. At

Glistening with morning dew; and yellowing tufts the bottom of each nest, close to the Of brake-grass, withered by the early frosts, odynerus's egg, you will find a dozen green

Give covert to the lark, whose clear shrill pipe

Wakes the hill-echoes with its melody, caterpillars rolled head and tail together, Sole minstrel of these wilds. stuck by the back against the walls of the

The autumn tints, cell, without the possibility of moving,

Purple, and red, and chrome, are on the fells,

With scarce an eye, save that of shepherd boy, The reason for this arrangement is clear. To drink their wondrous beauty. On the wing, The odynerus lays only one egg in each In solitary state, the goss-hawk skims

The vast expanse of sky. Fair, bright, and pure, cell. From that egg will issue a carnivo

Sweet, calm, and mellow, holy, grand, and still, rous worm who would disdain to eat stale Voiceless, yet speaking with a thousand tongues, or tainted meat. He must have fresh, Breaks forth the radiance of this autumn dawn. tender, juicy, living game. His mother knows his peculiar tastes, and takes “ EXCEPT THE MAYOR." measures beforehand to indulge them. She fills the cell with animals which he will Who told me, I wonder, and when and only have to devour one after the other, where was I told, a preposterous story, although their size enormously exceeds his with nothing in it, but which tickled me own when he first comes forth from his egg. strangely at the time, and which has never He eats the larva nearest at hand, without failed so to titillate my risible sense, to this troubling himself about the future. He day? The tale went this wise. Some then proceds to the second, then to the four decades since, when the Municipal third, and so on till the twelfth course is Corporations Reform Act was passed, a eaten. Twelve caterpillars, one per day, number of respectable towns in England neither more nor less, are his precise allow became boroughs, and were not only priance. His mother, well aware of the re- vileged to return members to parliament, quired number, never exceeds it. Her but likewise received charters of incorentomological knowledge is still more sur- poration, and were consequently empowered prising. She hunts after one single species to elect a mayor, aldermen, and town counof larvæ, and, what is still more curious, cil for purposes of local self-government. selects them all of nearly the same age. I can remember, indeed, when Brighton the Disdaining larvæ that are too small for her magnificent was destitute of such dignipurpose, she spares herself no trouble to taries, and was only the Hundred of Herfind up those who are old and strong ringbone, governed by a high constable i enough to bear a fast without perishing. but the town of which I am about to speak, If they died in the nest, and putrefied and which I will discreetly allude to under there, the stench would render it unbear- the name of Frogborough, was distant at able. Thanks to the peculiar wound she least a hundred and fifty miles from the inflicts, their vital functions are instantly queen of watering-places, and was situate suspended; but life exists in a degree in quite a different part of the island. It sufficient to preserve them from decay was a very small town; but had become, until they have satisfied the wants of the mentally, so prodigiously inflated by its young odynerus, who then undergoes his accession of importance as the seat of a

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mayor and corporation, that the Gazetteers Except whom ?” roared the traveller. might have changed its name to Oxborough; “ The mayor-his worship the mayor of and if it went on swelling in its own esti. Frogborough-he's a supping now,' the mation in a proportionate ratio, I should landlord, still deeply agitated, but still denot be surprised to hear that it had burst termined, replied. long ago. There alighted, one evening, at “ Hang the mayor of Frogborough !" the principal hotel at Frogborough-it had shouted the Irreverent Traveller; "and tell only been an inn prior to the passing of the him, with my compliments, that he may go Mayor-giving Act - a certain personage to Bath.” whom I will call the Irreverent Traveller. The landlord gazed for an instant at the He was a hungry traveller, too, and im- iconoclast, and then rushed from his premediately after he had flung his baggage sence, calling for the constables. to the boots, demanded supper in a voice They locked the Irreverent Traveller op of thunder. It was the landlord who con- in the cage; and the next day they brought descended to bring his repast, and to wait him up before the borough bench, charging upon him while he partook of it; and for him with fearful crimes. The country was two good reasons did mine host so stoop to in a disturbed state just then, and a vinous conquer. In the first place, his only waiter postboy came forward to swear that the was assisting at an entertainment given traveller had confided to him his complete that very evening by his worship the approval of the principles contained in mayor of Frogborough; in the next, the Cobbett's Register. It was currently relandlord could not but think that a traveller ported, too-being market-day—that the with such a loud voice as that possessed prisoner had been discovered lurking under by the Irreverent one, must be a personage the lee of a hayrick with a tinder-box and of some importance. The traveller par- matches in one pocket, and an air-gun in took of a dishful of eggs and ham; two the other, and at the farmers' ordinary

helps” of cold roast beef; a considerable the rumour ran that he was SWING. amount of pie, and a prodigious quan- The end of the judicial investigation tity of pickles; and made no more of a was the discharge, “ with a caution," of the crusty quartern loaf than though it had traveller; whereupon the Irreverent one, been a French roll. He drank a pint and planting his hat firmly on his head, dea half of strong ale, and two glasses of livered himself of the following seditious brandy-and-water; and then, flicking the words: crumbs off his knees with a great bandana “I shall be cautious, indeed, before I handkerchief, he drew a deep breath, and venture into this poky hole of a town slapping the landlord on the back-I warned again; and allow me to add, that of all the you that he was an Irreverent Traveller-stupid old fools I ever met with, the landexclaimed:

lord of your hotel is the greatest-except “ There ! no man in England could have the mayor.” a better supper than I've had this night.” He turned and fled, and justice was

The landlord didn't mind being slapped robbed of her prey. on the back, for the guest looked like one How often, and in how many countries, who could afford to pay for such fami- has this idle jest occurred to me, often withliarities. Still, there was something in the out rhyme or reason, and, in most instances, dogmatical manner of the traveller that without any effort of volition on my part. pained him, and he gave an “ahem!" in a But who has not his particular “tickledeprecating tone.

ment?" The old story of the man at What's that?” cried the guest, in a Stoney Stratford, who was so terribly bitten voice like unto the sound of a trumpet. by feas, and the older one still, of the

“I beg your pardon, sir,” the landlord ruined gamester who kicked his valet began in a tone subdued but firm.

for always tying his shoe, will never want “What?” repeated the traveller in sten- laughers. torian accents.

“Except the mayor.” I should be ashamed “You said,” the landlord went on, politely to revert to this Frogborough story in this but seriously, “that no man in England place, but thatit has some tangible relation to could have supped better than you have certain circumstances in which I found mydone this night.

self on the evening of the Ninth of Novem. “Of course I did,” retorted the guest. ber last. I should have been in bed, for I “No man could have supped better.” was ill; but by a strange turn of Fortune's

* Except the mayor, said the host, whirligig I found myself arrayed in that quietly but solemnly.

solemn mockery of woe which is known as


evening costume, and standing on a scarlet the company might think I was a waiter covered daïs, and by the side of a Chair, despatched from the hall to say that dinner which, so splendid were its adornments, was ready. That fiction perhaps might go might, without any amplitude of language, down with the First Lord of the Admiralty, have been termed a Throne, in the council or the Queen's Ancient Sergeant, or the chamber of the Guildhall of the City of Lon- Chilian chargé d'affaires (they were all don. It was close upon seven in the evening, close to me); but I was guiltily conscious and, my infirm health notwithstanding, I that the idea would not be for one moment had a not unpleasant persuasion that dinner- entertained by certain officials of the cortime was at hand.

poration, whom I saw standing below the But how on earth did I contrive to find

“haut pas” on the floor of the council myself on that daïs? The high places are chamber. I felt that the mace-bearer's not for me; of that fact I am fully aware. eye was upon me. I shrank beneath the Below the salt, behind the screen, or in a searching gaze of the common crier. What high-up gallery looking down on festivities would I not have given to conciliate the in which I was not, personally, privileged placid old gentleman who wears the fur to participate, was, I knew fall well, the porringer on his head, and carries the proper and normal position which I should sword of civic state? They knew full well have occupied. How had I come hither? that I was not present to proclaim the Physically, by means of the Metropolitan readiness of the banquet. Familiar with Railway from South Kensington to Cannon- the minutest traditions of municipal hosstreet, and thence on my legs to Guildhall. pitality, they knew that dinner would be But, morally, fortune, fate, chance, my announced by a personage in a court-suit, “kismet," my star, my good or evil genius, and with a flourish of trumpets. When had brought me to this pass; and, being you find yourself in places where you have there, I will not conceal the fact that I no ostensible right to be present, there felt horribly uncomfortable. I am not fond always remains open the loophole of saying of thrusting myself where I am not wanted. that you are "a gentleman connected with I shun the society of the great. I never the press.” But, woe is me! on the eventalk to people in omnibuses, or railway ing of the Ninth of November I had not

rains, or at hotel table d'hôtes. I don't the remotest connexion with the press ; know the members of my own club. I and I had, besides, the uneasy consciousness don't know my fellow-shopmen in the esta- that several gentlemen really affiliated to blishment where I serve. I never picked up that valuable institution, and formerly my a friend at a watering-place. I never made colleagues thereupon, were surveying me bat one chance acquaintance in my life. scornfully from afar off, and whispering He was a charming man, and gave me his among themselves, " Just like his concard; and a few days afterwards I read in founded impudence. How the deuce did the papers that he had been brought up at he get there?” It wasn't my fault. I Bow-street on a charge of bigamy. Not owed my card of invitation to the banquet but that a bigamist may be charming. to the courtesy of a deservedly popular

But I was desperately wretched on the sheriff, and at an earlier period of the daïs because I happened to be the only evening, after making my way to the daïs, person there in plain evening dress. “They and paying the customary obeisances to can't take me for the American minister," the chief magistrate, I had endeavoured I reasoned with myself, “because the name quietly to slip into the background, or into of his Excellency, who is standing within some quiet corridor, where, behind some half a dozen paces of me, has been twice bust, or flowering plant, I might see the called out in the hearing of the brilliant grand folks passing in procession to the assembly; and, besides, being a general banqueting - hall. Woe! I was standing officer in the American service, he is attired tranquilly on a common councillor's toes, in a uniform closely resembling that of a and behind the towering chignon of a British rear-aduniral. Nor can it be as deputy's wife, when I was amicably taker sumed that I am the minister from Liberia; into custody by an under-sheriff, and infor, lo, he is black.” For a moment I took formed that I was to escort the daughter cowardly refuge in the thought that I of an exalted civic functionary to the hall. might pass for an M.P. for au Irish con- I do declare that, at that moment, I would stituency; but alas! all the members of have preferred the tap on the shoulder the Honourable House on the daïs had from a sheriff's officer to the friendly mes. had their styles and titles proclaimed. I sage of the under-sheriff; but mightier magindulged at last in the humble hope that nificoes remained behind. The under-sheriff upon him.

himself was a sight splendid to behold. bishop-on the steps of the Athenæum, Point-lace cravat, embroidered waistcoat, and holding him in familiar converse, on cut-steel buttons, bright-bilted sword, bag- the strength of having sat next to him at wig, pink silk legs, patent leather shoes, a meeting of the Society for suppressing every sumptuary luxury had been bestowed Indigence by means of the Lash. I say

Better,” I thought, inwardly that there are people who can do these groaning, “the hooked nose and greasy sur- things. I aver, candidly, that I cannot; tout of Mr. Rabshekah of Chancery-lane." and I thank my stars that I have still There was no help. Clearly there was no nerves and ideas befitting the lowliness of making a run for it. I gave myself up, with my station, and that I am heartily frightdogged resignation, to Fate, as though the ened of the Lord Chancellor. On that meunder-sheriff's summons had only been pre- morable Ninth his lordship's golden robe liminary to the apparition of another muni- rustled against me; and some of the powder cipal functionary on the scene with the from his ambrosial wig actually came off on night-cap and the pinioning straps.

my nose.

I saw his shoes—his glorious There are some people who could have buckled shoes. Hitherto I had only known borne this kind of thing with perfect equa- chancellors from the waist upwards, as we nimity; nay, who would have found them know one of Mr. Attenborough's assistants. selves quite at home on this square island I felt faint. Reason tottered on her throne. of scarlet cloth, in the midst of an ocean of Was I, by the act of standing on that daïs, gas and watchful eyes. I don't speak of in contempt of the High Court of Chancery? those who are to the manner born. Of Should I fling myself at the cancellarian course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer can feet and cry, Mercy. I unfile all my meet the


of the Home Secretary with. bills; I revoke all my answers; I will conout quailing. The plenipotentiary from the sent to the costs being costs in the cause : Venezuelan Republic is not afraid of the only forgive and spare me the terrors of minister from Honduras, and the Prime the Third Seal ?" ' I am not an eavesMinister is not afraid of anybody. These dropper; but from my propinquity I could good folks are upon terms of mutual not choose but hear that the Keeper of the equality; but, on the other hand, I know Queen's Conscience was talking to a Justice several Toms, and Dicks, and Harrys, in Eyre about the weather. Justices in members, as I am, of the “ lower middle Eyre, bah! they were drugs in this market classes," who can stand any amount of of splendour. I mentally snapped my fingers aristocratic fill without Ainching. They at them. The Corps Diplomatique, the Elder like to be among their betters, and so let Brethren of the Trinity House, the Court of them know that they, Tom, Dick, and Lieutenancy, and such small deer, I took Harry, are there. Observe Tom when, as but little account of. I had touched the secretary to the Invalided Rabbit-skin wig of the greatest personage in all this Sellers' Association, he welcomes the Duke realm of England-except the MAYOR. of Haresfoot to the annual dinner, at which Ay! there he was, in his golden prime, his

grace is to take the chair. He patronises and at once recalled the legend of the Irrethe augast nobleman; I saw him once poke verent being who contemned the worshipful the peer in the ribs as his grace was taking mayor of Frogborough. That landlord who his coffee after the banquet. He was telling resented the outrage was, after all, in the him a funny story, evidently. Could you right. What were chancellors, premiers, tell a funny story to a duke? I couldn't. ambassadors, bishops, justices in Eyre, and Admire Dick, again, when he meets the elder brethren of the Trinity House, on this Earl of Sablejamb-whom he saw last instant Ninth of November in comparison year at Homburg—when he comes across with the mayor of famous London town? I him in Pall Mall. “ Halloa ! old fellow," could not help at the same time bringing to he cries,

“ what a jolly time of it we had mind that drolly exaggerated account of a when we last met." Sablejamb, who is as lord mayor's career given by Theodore Hook proud as Lucifer, save when he wants to in Gilbert Gurney; and that dismally draborrow a ten-pound note, tries hard to matic scene conjured up by the novelist of cross the road; bnt the unabashed Dick the ex-lord mayor returning on the night of pursues him, shouting out an invitation for the expiration of his year of splendour to his my lord to come and dine with him at the drysalter's warehouse in a dingy City lane. Rollicking Rams' Club--a dreadful place, All his good fellowship with his majesty's with a nominal subscription, and where ministers and the foreign ambassadors bad they drink beer from the pewter. Marvel come to an end. No more did his wife and at Harry button-holing a bishop—a live | daughters dance with princes and nobles.

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