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here what that author says about those insects; you may see his relation.
"Here follows a curious experiment, which I made upon the same ground, where I had three ants' nests. I undertook to make a fourth, and went about it in the following manner. In a corner of a kind of a terrace, at a considerable distance from the box, I found a hole swarming with ants much larger than all those I had already seen; but they were not so well provided with corn, nor under so good a government. I made a hole in the box like that of an ants' nest, and laid, as it were, the foundations of a new city. Afterwards, I got as many ants as I could out of the nest in the terrace, and put them into a bottle, to give them a new habitation in my box; and because I was afraid they would return to the terrace, I destroyed their old nest, pouring boiling water into the hole, to kill those ants that remained in it. In the next place, I filled the new hole with the ants that were in the bottle; but none of them would stay in it: they went away in less than two hours; which made me believe that it was impossible to make a fourth settlement in my box.
"Two or three days after, going accidentally over the terrace, I was very much surprised to see the ants' nest which I had destroyed, very artfully repaired. I resolved then to destroy it entirely, and to settle those ants in my box. To succeed in my design, I put some gunpowder and brimstone into their hole, and sprung a mine, whereby the whole nest was overthrown; and then I carried as many ants as I could get, into the place which I designed for them. It happened to be a very rainy day, and it rained all night; and therefore they remained in the new hole all that time. In the morning, when the rain was over, most of them went to repair their old habitation; but, finding it impracticable by reason of the smell of the powder and brimstone, which kills them, they came back again, and settled in the place I had appointed for them. They quickly grew acquainted with their neighbours, and received from them all manner of assistance out of their holes. As for the inside of their nest, none but themselves were concerned in it, according to the inviolable laws established among those animals.
An ant never goes into any other nest but her own; and
if she should venture to do it, she would be turned out, and severely punished. I have often taken an ant out of one nest, to put her into another; but she quickly came out, being warmly pursued by two or three other ants. I tried the same experiment several times with the same ant; but at last the other ants grew impatient, and tore her to pieces. I have often frighted some ants with my fingers, and pursued them as far as another hole; stopping all the passages to prevent their going to their own nest. It was very natural for them to fly into the next hole: many a man would not be so cautious, and would throw himself out of the windows, or into a well, if he were pursued by assassins. But the ants I am speaking of, avoided going into any other hole but their own, and rather tried all other ways of making their escape. They never fled into another nest, but at the last extremity; and sometimes rather chose to be taken, as I have often experienced. It is therefore an inviolable custom among those insects, not to go into any other hole but their own. They do not exercise hospitality; but they are very ready to help one another out of their holes. They put down their loads at the entrance of a neighbouring nest; and those that live in it carry them in.
They keep up a sort of trade among themselves; and it is not true that those insects are not for lending: I know the contrary: they lend their corn; they make exchanges; they are always ready to serve one another; and I can assure you, that more time and patience would have enabled me to observe a thousand things more curious and wonderful than what I have mentioned. For instance, how they lend, and recover their loans; whether it be in the same quantity, or with whether they pay usury; the strangers that work for them, &c. I do not think it impossible to examine all those things; and it would be a great curiosity to know by what maxims they govern themselves: perhaps such a knowledge might be of some use to us.
They are never attacked by any enemies in a body, as it is reported of bees: their only fear proceeds from birds, which sometimes eat their corn when they lay it out in the sun; but they keep it under ground when they are afraid of thieves. It is said, that some birds eat them; but I never saw any instance of it. They are also infested by small worms; but they turn them out, and kill them. I observed,
that they punished those ants which probably had been wanting to their duty: nay, sometimes they killed them; which they did in the following manner. Three or four ants fell upon one, and pulled her several ways, until she was torn in pieces. Generally speaking, they live very quietly; from whence I infer that they have a very severe discipline among themselves, to keep so good an order; or that they are great lovers of peace, if they have no occasion for any discipline.
"Was there ever a greater union in any commonwealth ? Everything is common among them; which is not to be seen anywhere else. Bees, of which we are told so many wonderful things, have each of them a hole in their hives; their honey is their own; every bee minds her own concerns. The same may be said of all other animals: they frequently fight, to deprive one another of their portion. It is not so with ants; they have nothing of their own: a grain of corn which an ant carries home, is deposited in a common stock: it is not designed for her own use, but for the whole community: there is no distinction between a private and a common interest. An ant never works for herself, but for the society.
"Whatever misfortune happens to them, their care and industry find out a remedy for it; nothing discourages them. If you destroy their nests, they will be repaired in two days. Anybody may easily see how difficult it is to drive them out of their habitations, without destroying the inhabitants; for as long as there are any left, they will maintain their ground. "I had almost forgot to tell you, sir, that mercury has hitherto proved a mortal poison for them; and that it is the most effectual way of destroying those insects. I can do something for them in this case: perhaps you will hear in a little time that I have reconciled them to mercury."
Gnossius hæc Rhadamanthus habet durissima regna:
I was yesterday pursuing the hint which I mentioned in my last paper, and comparing together the industry of man
with that of other creatures; in which I could not but observe, that notwithstanding we are obliged by duty to keep ourselves in constant employ,1 after the same manner as inferior animals are prompted to it by instinct, we fall very short of them in this particular. We are here the more inexcusable, because there is a greater variety of business to which we may apply ourselves. Reason opens to us a large field of affairs, which other creatures are not capable of. Beasts of prey, and, I believe, of all other kinds, in their natural state of being, divide their time between action and rest. They are always at work or asleep. In short, their waking hours are wholly taken up in seeking after their food, or in consuming it. The human species only, to the great reproach of our natures, are filled with complaints, that "the day hangs heavy on them," that "they do not know what to do with themselves," that, "they are at a loss how to pass away their time," with many of the like shameful murmurs, which we often find in the mouths of those who are styled reasonable beings. How monstrous are such expressions among creatures, who have the labours of the mind, as well as those of the body, to furnish them with proper employments; who, besides the business of their proper callings and professions, can apply themselves to the duties of religion, to meditation, to the reading of useful books, to discourse; in a word, who may exercise themselves in the unbounded pursuits of knowledge and virtue, and every hour of their lives make themselves wiser or better than they were before.
After having been taken up for some time in this course of thought, I diverted myself with a book, according to my usual custom, in order to unbend my mind before I went to sleep. The book I made use of on this occasion was Lucian, where I amused my thoughts for about an hour among the Dialogues of the Dead, which, in all probability, produced the following dream.1
I was conveyed, methought, into the entrance of the infernal regions, where I saw Rhadamanthus, one of the judges
1 Constant employ-he expresses himself thus, because constant employment, would hurt the ear. But, to make a substantive of the verb employ, is not allowable in exact prose. He might have said-to keep ourselves constantly in employment.
Very injudicious in Mr. Addison, to treat such a subject in the manner of Lucian; which, it must be owned, he has copied but too well.
vide proper employ.
of the dead, seated in his tribunal. On his left hand stood the keeper of Erebus, on his right the keeper of Elysium. I was told he sat upon women that day, there being several of the sex lately arrived, who had not yet their mansions assigned them. I was surprised to hear him ask every one of them the same question, namely, "What they had been doing?" Upon this question being proposed to the whole assembly, they stared one upon another, as not knowing what to answer. He then interrogated each of them separately. Madam, (says he, to the first of them,) you have been upon the earth about fifty years: what have you been doing there all this while ?" "Doing! (says she,) really I do not know what I have been doing: I desire I may have time given me to recollect." After about half an hour's pause, she told him, that she had been playing at crimp; upon which, Rhadamanthus beckoned to the keeper on his left hand, to take her into custody. "And you, madam, (says the judge,) that look with such a soft and languishing air; I think you set out for this place in your nine and twentieth year, what have you been doing all this while ?" "I had a great deal of business on my hands, (says she,) being taken up the first twelve years of my life in dressing a jointed baby, and all the remaining part of it in reading plays and romances." "Very well, (says he,) you have employed your time to good purpose. Away with her." The next was a plain country woman: "Well mistress, (says Rhadamanthus,) and what have you been doing ?" "An't please your Worship, (says she,) I did not live quite forty years; and in that time brought my husband seven daughters, made him nine thousand cheeses, and left my eldest girl with him, to look after his house in my absence, and who, I may venture to say, is as pretty a housewife as any in the country." Rhadamanthus smiled at the simplicity of the good woman, and ordered the keeper of Elysium to take her into his care. "And you, fair lady, (says he,) what have you been doing these five and thirty years ?" "I have been doing no hurt, I assure you, sir" (says she). "That is well, (says he,) but what good have you been doing?" The lady was in great confusion at this question, and not knowing what to answer, the two keepers leaped out to seize her at the same time; the one took her by the hand to convey her to Elysium, the other caught hold of her to carry her away to Erebus. But