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THE HALICTI A PARASITE




Do you know the Halicti? Perhaps not. There is no great harm done: it
is quite possible to enjoy the few sweets of existence without
knowing the Halicti. Nevertheless, when questioned persistently,
these humble creatures with no history can tell us some very singular
things; and their acquaintance is not to be disdained if we would
enlarge our ideas upon the bewildering swarm of this world. Since we
have nothing better to do, let us look into the Halicti. They are
worth the trouble.

How shall we recognize them? They are manufacturers of honey,
generally longer and slighter than the Bee of our hives. They
constitute a numerous group that varies greatly in size and
colouring. Some there are that exceed the dimensions of the Common
Wasp; others might be compared with the House-fly, or are even
smaller. In the midst of this variety, which is the despair of the
novice, one characteristic remains invariable. Every Halictus carries
the clearly-written certificate of her guild.

Examine the last ring, at the tip of the abdomen, on the dorsal
surface. If your capture be an Halictus, there will be here a smooth
and shiny line, a narrow groove along which the sting slides up and
down when the insect is on the defensive. This slide for the
unsheathed weapon denotes some member of the Halictus tribe, without
distinction of size or colour. No elsewhere, in the sting-bearing
order, is this original sort of groove in use. It is the distinctive
mark, the emblem of the family.

Three Halicti will appear before you in this biographical fragment.
Two of them are my neighbours, my familiars, who rarely fail to
settle each year in the best parts of the enclosure. They occupied
the ground before I did; and I should not dream of evicting them,
persuaded as I am that they will well repay my indulgence. Their
proximity, which allows me to visit them daily at my leisure, is a
piece of good luck. Let us profit by it.

At the head of my three subjects is the Zebra Halictus (H. zebrus,
WALCK.), which is beautifully belted around her long abdomen with
alternate black and pale-russet scarves. Her slender shape, her size,
which equals that of the Common Wasp, her simple and pretty dress,
combine to make her the chief representative of the genus here.

She establishes her galleries in firm soil, where there is no danger
of landslips which would interfere with the work at nesting-time. In
my garden, the well-levelled paths, made of a mixture of tiny pebbles
and red clayey earth, suits her to perfection. Every spring she takes
possession of it, never alone, but in gangs whose number varies
greatly, amounting sometimes to as many as a hundred. In this way she
founds what may be described as small townships, each clearly marked
out and distant from the other, in which the joint possession of the
site in no way entails joint work.

Each has her home, an inviolable manor which none but the owner has
the right to enter. A sound buffeting would soon call to order any
adventuress who dared to make her way into another's dwelling. No
such indiscretion is suffered among the Halicti. Let each keep to her
own place and to herself and perfect peace will reign in this new-
formed society, made up of neighbours and not of fellow-workers.

Operations begin in April, most unobtrusively, the only sign of the
underground works being the little mounds of fresh earth. There is no
animation in the building-yards. The labourers show themselves very
seldom, so busy are they at the bottom of their pits. At moments,
here and there, the summit of a tiny mole-hill begins to totter and
tumbles down the slopes of the cone: it is a worker coming up with
her armful of rubbish and shooting it outside, without showing
herself in the open. Nothing more for the moment.

There is one precaution to be taken: the villages must be protected
against the passers-by, who might inadvertently trample them under
foot. I surround each of them with a palisade of reed-stumps. In the
centre I plant a danger-signal, a post with a paper flag. The
sections of the paths thus marked are forbidden ground; none of the
household will walk upon them.

May arrives, gay with flowers and sunshine. The navvies of April have
turned themselves into harvesters. At every moment I see them
settling, all befloured with yellow, atop of the mole-hills now
turned into craters. Let us first look into the question of the
house. The arrangement of the home will give us some useful
information. A spade and a three-pronged fork place the insect's
crypts before our eyes.

A shaft as nearly vertical as possible, straight or winding according
to the exigencies of a soil rich in flinty remains, descends to a
depth of between eight and twelve inches. As it is merely a passage
in which the only thing necessary is that the Halictus should find an
easy support in coming and going, this long entrance-hall is rough
and uneven. A regular shape and a polished surface would be out of
place here. These artistic refinements are reserved for the
apartments of her young. All that the Halictus mother asks is that
the passage should be easy to go up and down, to ascend or descend in
a hurry. And so she leaves it rugged. Its width is about that of a
thick lead-pencil.

Arranged one by one, horizontally and at different heights, the cells
occupy the basement of the house. They are oval cavities, three-
quarters of an inch long, dug out of the clay mass. They end in a
short bottle-neck that widens into a graceful mouth. They look like
tiny vaccine-phials laid on their sides. All of them open into the
passage.

The inside of these little cells has the gloss and polish of a stucco
which our most experienced plasterers might envy. It is diapered with
faint longitudinal, diamond-shaped marks. These are the traces of the
polishing-tool that has given the last finish to the work. What can
this polisher be? None other than the tongue, that is obvious. The
Halictus has made a trowel of her tongue and licked the wall daintily
and methodically in order to polish it.

This final glazing, so exquisite in its perfection, is preceded by a
trimming-process. In the cells that are not yet stocked with
provisions, the walls are dotted with tiny dents like those in a
thimble. Here we recognize the work of the mandibles, which squeeze
the clay with their tips, compress it and purge it of any grains of
sand. The result is a milled surface whereon the polished layer will
find a solid adhesive base. This layer is obtained with a fine clay,
very carefully selected by the insect, purified, softened and then
applied atom by atom, after which the trowel of the tongue steps in,
diapering and polishing, while saliva, disgorged as needed, gives
pliancy to the paste and finally dries into a waterproof varnish.

The humidity of the subsoil, at the time of the spring showers, would
reduce the little earthen alcove to a sort of pap. The coating of
saliva is an excellent preservative against this danger. It is so
delicate that we suspect rather than see it; but its efficacy is none
the less evident. I fill a cell with water. The liquid remains in it
quite well, without any trace of infiltration.

The tiny pitcher looks as if it were varnished with galenite. The
impermeability which the potter obtains by the brutal infusion of his
mineral ingredients the Halictus achieves with the soft polisher of
her tongue moistened with saliva. Thus protected, the larva will
enjoy all the advantages of a dry berth, even in rain-soaked ground.

Should the wish seize us, it is easy to detach the waterproof film,
at least in shreds. Take the little shapeless lump in which a cell
has been excavated and put it in sufficient water to cover the bottom
of it. The whole earthy mass will soon be soaked and reduced to a mud
which we are able to sweep with the point of a hair-pencil. Let us
have patience and do our sweeping gently; and we shall be able to
separate from the main body the fragments of a sort of extremely fine
satin. This transparent, colourless material is the upholstery that
keeps out the wet. The Spider's web, if it formed a stuff and not a
net, is the only thing that could be compared with it.

The Halictus' nurseries are, as we see, structures that take much
time in the making. The insect first digs in the clayey earth a
recess with an oval curve to it. It has its mandibles for a pick-axe
and its tarsi, armed with tiny claws, for rakes. Rough though it be,
this early work presents difficulties, for the Bee has to do her
excavating in a narrow gully, where there is only just room for her
to pass.

The rubbish soon becomes cumbersome. The insect collects it and then,
moving backwards, with its fore-legs closed over the load, it hoists
it up through the shaft and flings it outside, upon the mole-hill,
which rises by so much above the threshold of the burrow. Next come
the dainty finishing-touches: the milling of the wall, the
application of a glaze of better-quality clay, the assiduous
polishing with the long-suffering tongue, the waterproof coating and
the jarlike mouth, a masterpiece of pottery in which the stopping-
plug will be fixed when the time comes for locking the door of the
room. And all this has to be done with mathematical precision.

No, because of this perfection, the grubs' chambers could never be
work done casually from day to day, as the ripe eggs descend from the
ovaries. They are prepared long beforehand, during the bad weather,
at the end of March and in April, when flowers are scarce and the
temperature subject to sudden changes. This thankless period, often
cold, liable to hail-storms, is spent in making ready the home. Alone
at the bottom of her shaft, which she rarely leaves, the mother works
at her children's apartments, lavishing upon them those finishing-
touches which leisure allows. They are completed, or very nearly,
when May comes with the radiant sunshine and wealth of flowers.

We see the evidence of these long preparations in the burrows
themselves, if we inspect them before the provisions are brought. All
of them show us cells, about a dozen in number, quite finished, but
still empty. To begin by getting all the huts built is a sensible
precaution: the mother will not have to turn aside from the delicate
task of harvesting and egg-laying in order to perform rough navvy's
work.

Everything is ready by May. The air is balmy; the smiling lawns are
gay with a thousand little flowers, dandelions, rock-roses, tansies
and daisies, among which the harvesting Bee rolls gleefully, covering
herself with pollen. With her crop full of honey and the brushes of
her legs befloured, the Halictus returns to her village. Flying very
low, almost level with the ground, she hesitates, with sudden turns
and bewildered movements. It seems that the weak-sighted insect finds
its way with difficulty among the cottages of its little township.

Which is its mole-hill among the many others near, all similar in
appearance? It cannot tell exactly save by the sign-board of certain
details known to itself alone. Therefore, still on the wing, tacking
from side to side, it examines the locality. The home is found at
last: the Halictus alights on the threshold of her abode and dives
into it quickly.

What happens at the bottom of the pit must be the same thing that
happens in the case of the other Wild Bees. The harvester enters a
cell backwards; she first brushes herself and drops her load of
pollen; then, turning round, she disgorges the honey in her crop upon
the floury mass. This done, the unwearied one leaves the burrow and
flies away, back to the flowers. After many journeys, the stack of
provisions in the cell is sufficient. This is the moment to bake the
cake.

The mother kneads her flour, mingles it sparingly with honey. The
mixture is made into a round loaf, the size of a pea. Unlike our own
loaves, this one has the crust inside and the crumb outside. The
middle part of the roll, the ration which will be consumed last, when
the grub has acquired some strength, consists of almost nothing but
dry pollen. The Bee keeps the dainties in her crop for the outside of
the loaf, whence the feeble grub-worm is to take its first mouthfuls.
Here it is all soft crumb, a delicious sandwich with plenty of honey.
The little breakfast-roll is arranged in rings regulated according to
the age of the nurseling: first the syrupy outside and at the very
end the dry inside. Thus it is ordained by the economics of the
Halictus.

An egg bent like a bow is laid upon the sphere. According to the
generally-accepted rule, it now only remains to close the cabin.
Honey-gatherers--Anthophorae, Osmiae, Mason-bees and many others--
usually first collect a sufficient stock of food and then, having
laid the egg, shut up the cell, to which they need pay no more
attention. The Halicti employ a different method. The compartments,
each with its round loaf and its egg--the tenant and his provisions--
are not closed up. As they all open into the common passage of the
burrow, the mother is able, without leaving her other occupations, to
inspect them daily and enquire tenderly into the progress of her
family. I imagine, without possessing any certain proof, that from
time to time she distributes additional provisions to the grubs, for
the original loaf appears to me a very frugal ration compared with
that served by the other Bees.

Certain hunting Hymenoptera, the Bembex-wasps, for instance, are
accustomed to furnish the provisions in instalments: so that the grub
may have fresh though dead game, they fill the platter each day. The
Halictus mother has not these domestic necessities, as her provisions
keep more easily; but still she might well distribute a second
portion of flour to the larvae, when their appetite attains its
height. I can see nothing else to explain the open doors of the cells
during the feeding-period.

At last the grubs, close-watched and fed to repletion, have achieved
the requisite degree of fatness; they are on the eve of being
transformed into pupae. Then and not till then the cells are closed:
a big clay stopper is built by the mother into the spreading mouth of
the jug. Henceforth the maternal cares are over. The rest will come
of itself.

Hitherto we have witnessed only the peaceful details of the
housekeeping. Let us go back a little and we shall be witnesses of
rampant brigandage. In May, I visit my most populous village daily,
at about ten o'clock in the morning, when the victualling-operations
are in full swing. Seated on a low chair in the sun, with my back
bent and my arms upon my knees, I watch, without moving, until
dinner-time. What attracts me is a parasite, a trumpery Gnat, the
bold despoiler of the Halictus.

Has the jade a name? I trust so, without, however, caring to waste my
time in enquiries that can have no interest for the reader. Facts
clearly stated are preferable to the dry minutiae of nomenclature.
Let me content myself with giving a brief description of the culprit.
She is a Dipteron, or Fly, five millimetres long. (.195 inch.--
Translator's Note.) Eyes, dark-red; face, white. Corselet, pearl-
grey, with five rows of fine black dots, which are the roots of stiff
bristles pointing backwards. Greyish belly, pale below. Black legs.

She abounds in the colony under observation. Crouching in the sun,
near a burrow, she waits. As soon as the Halictus arrives from her
harvesting, her legs yellow with pollen, the Gnat darts forth and
pursues her, keeping behind her in all the turns of her oscillating
flight. At last, the Bee suddenly dives indoors. No less suddenly the
other settles on the mole-hill, quite close to the entrance.
Motionless, with her head turned towards the door of the house, she
waits for the Bee to finish her business. The latter reappears at
last and, for a few seconds, stands on the threshold, with her head
and thorax outside the hole. The Gnat, on her side, does not stir.

Often, they are face to face, separated by a space no wider than a
finger's breadth. Neither of them shows the least excitement. The
Halictus--judging, at least, by her tranquillity--takes no notice of
the parasite lying in wait for her; the parasite, on the other hand,
displays no fear of being punished for her audacity. She remains
imperturbable, she, the dwarf, in the presence of the colossus who
could crush her with one blow.

In vain I watch anxiously for some sign of apprehension on either
side: nothing in the Halictus points to a knowledge of the danger run
by her family; nor does the Gnat betray any dread of swift
retribution. Plunderer and plundered stare at each other for a
moment; and that is all.

If she liked, the amiable giantess could rip up with her claw the
tiny bandit who ruins her home; she could crunch her with her
mandibles, run her through with her stiletto. She does nothing of the
sort, but leaves the robber in peace, to sit quite close, motionless,
with her red eyes fixed on the threshold of the house. Why this
fatuous clemency?

The Bee flies off. Forthwith, the Gnat walks in, with no more
ceremony than if she were entering her own place. She now chooses
among the victualled cells at her ease, for they are all open, as I
have said; she leisurely deposits her eggs. No one will disturb her
until the Bee's return. To flour one's legs with pollen, to distend
one's crop with syrup is a task that takes long a-doing; and the
intruder, therefore, has time and to spare wherein to commit her
felony. Moreover, her chronometer is well-regulated and gives the
exact measure of the Bee's length of absence. When the Halictus comes
back from the fields, the Gnat has decamped. In some favourable spot,
not far from the burrow, she awaits the opportunity for a fresh
misdeed.

What would happen if a parasite were surprised at her work by the
Bee? Nothing serious. I see them, greatly daring, follow the Halictus
right into the cave and remain there for some time while the mixture
of pollen and honey is being prepared. Unable to make use of the
paste so long as the harvester is kneading it, they go back to the
open air and wait on the threshold for the Bee to come out. They
return to the sunlight, calmly, with unhurried steps: a clear proof
that nothing untoward has occurred in the depths where the Halictus
works.

A tap on the Gnat's neck, if she become too enterprising in the
neighbourhood of the cake: that is all that the lady of the house
seems to allow herself, to drive away the intruder. There is no
serious affray between the robber and the robbed. This is apparent
from the self-possessed manner and undamaged condition of the dwarf
who returns from visiting the giantess engaged down in the burrow.

The Bee, when she comes home, whether laden with provisions or not,
hesitates, as I have said, for a while; in a series of rapid zigzags,
she moves backwards, forwards and from side to side, at a short
distance from the ground. This intricate flight at first suggests the
idea that she is trying to lead her persecutress astray by means of
an inextricable tangle of marches and countermarches. That would
certainly be a prudent move on the Bee's part; but so much wisdom
appears to be denied her.

It is not the enemy that is disturbing her, but rather the difficulty
of finding her own house amid the confusion of the mole-hills,
encroaching one upon the other, and all the alleys of the little
township, which, owing to landslips of fresh rubbish, alter in
appearance from one day to the next. Her hesitation is manifest, for
she often blunders and alights at the entrance to a burrow that is
not hers. The mistake is at once perceived from the slight
indications of the doorway.

The search is resumed with the same see-sawing flights, mingled with
sudden excursions to a distance. At last, the burrow is recognized.
The Halictus dives into it with a rush; but, however prompt her
disappearance underground, the Gnat is there, perched on the
threshold with her eyes turned to the entrance, waiting for the Bee
to come out, so that she may visit the honey-jars in her turn.

When the owner of the house ascends, the other draws back a little,
just enough to leave a free passage and no more. Why should she put
herself out? the meeting is so peaceful that, short of further
information, one would not suspect that a destroyer and destroyed
were face to face. Far from being intimidated by the sudden arrival
of the Halictus, the Gnat pays hardly any attention; and, in the same
way, the Halictus takes no notice of her persecutress, unless the
bandit pursue her and worry her on the wing. Then, with a sudden
bend, the Bee makes off.

Even so do Philanthus apivorus (The Bee-hunting Wasp. Cf. "Social
Life in the Insect World": chapter 13.--Translator's Note.) and the
other game-hunters behave when the Tachina is at their heels seeking
the chance to lay her egg on the morsel about to be stored away.
Without jostling the parasite which they find hanging around the
burrow, they go indoors quite peaceably; but, on the wing, perceiving
her after them, they dart off wildly. The Tachina, however, dares not
go down to the cells where the huntress stacks her provisions; she
prudently waits at the door for the Philanthus to arrive. The crime,
the laying of the egg, is committed at the very moment when the
victim is about to vanish underground.

The troubles of the parasite of the Halictus are of quite another
kind. The homing Bee has her honey in her crop and her pollen on her
leg-brushes: the first is inaccessible to the thief; the second is
powdery and would give no resting-place to the egg. Besides, there is
not enough of it yet: to collect the wherewithal for that round loaf
of hers, the Bee will have to make repeated journeys. When the
necessary amount is obtained, she will knead it with the tip of her
mandibles and shape it with her feet into a little ball. The Gnat's
egg, were it present among the materials, would certainly be in
danger during this manipulation.

The alien egg, therefore, must be laid on the finished bread; and, as
the preparation takes place underground, the parasite is needs
obliged to go down to the Halictus. With inconceivable daring, she
does go down, even when the Bee is there. Whether through cowardice
or silly indulgence, the dispossessed insect lets the other have its
way.

The object of the Gnat, with her tenacious lying-in-wait and her
reckless burglaries, is not to feed herself at the harvester's
expense: she could get her living out of the flowers with much less
trouble than her thieving trade involves. The most, I think, that she
can allow herself to do in the Halictus' cellars is to take one
morsel just to ascertain the quality of the victuals. Her great, her
sole business is to settle her family. The stolen goods are not for
herself, but for her offspring.

Let us dig up the pollen-loaves. We shall find them most often
crumbled with no regard to economy, simply frittered away. We shall
see two or three maggots, with pointed mouths, moving in the yellow
flour scattered over the floor of the cell. These are the Gnat's
progeny. With them we sometimes find the lawful owner, the grub-worm
of the Halictus, but stunted and emaciated with fasting. His
gluttonous companions, without otherwise molesting him, deprive him
of the best of everything. The wretched starveling dwindles, shrivels
up and soon disappears from view. His corpse, a mere atom, blended
with the remaining provisions, supplies the maggots with one mouthful
the more.

And what does the Halictus mother do in this disaster? She is free to
visit her grubs at any moment; she has but to put her head into the
passage of the house: she cannot fail to be apprised of their
distress. The squandered loaf, the swarming mass of vermin tell their
own tale. Why does she not take the intruders by the skin of the
abdomen? To grind them to powder with her mandibles, to fling them
out of doors were the business of a second. And the foolish creature
never thinks of it, leaves the ravagers in peace!

She does worse. When the time of the nymphosis comes, the Halictus
mother goes to the cells rifled by the parasite and closes them with
an earthen plug as carefully as she does the rest. This final
barricade, an excellent precaution when the cot is occupied by an
Halictus in course of metamorphosis, becomes the height of absurdity
when the Gnat has passed that way. Instinct does not hesitate in the
face of this ineptitude: it seals up emptiness. I say, emptiness,
because the crafty maggot hastens to decamp the instant that the
victuals are consumed, as though it foresaw an insuperable obstacle
for the coming Fly: it quits the cell before the Bee closes it.

To rascally guile the parasite adds prudence. All, until there is
none of them left, abandon the clay homes which would be their
undoing once the entrance was plugged up. The earthen niche, so
grateful to the tender skin, thanks to its polished coating, so free
from humidity, thanks to its waterproof glaze, ought, one would
think, to make an excellent waiting-place. The maggots will have none
of it. Lest they should find themselves walled in when they become
frail Gnats, they go away and disperse in the neighbourhood of the
ascending shaft.

My digging operations, in fact, always reveal the pupae outside the
cells, never inside. I find them enshrined, one by one, in the body
of the clayey earth, in a narrow recess which the emigrant worm has
contrived to make for itself. Next spring, when the hour comes for
leaving, the adult insect has but to creep through the rubbish, which
is easy work.

Another and no less imperative reason compels this change of abode on
the parasite's part. In July, a second generation of the Halictus is
procreated. The Gnat, reduced on her side to a single brood, remains
in the pupa state and awaits the spring of the following year before
effecting her transformation. The honey-gather resumes her work in
her native village; she avails herself of the pits and cells
constructed in the spring, saving no little time thereby. The whole
elaborate structure has remained in good condition. It needs but a
few repairs to make the old house habitable.

Now what would happen if the Bee, so scrupulous in matters of
cleanliness, were to find a pupa in the cell which she is sweeping?
She would treat the cumbersome object as she would a piece of old
plaster. It would be no more to her than any other refuse, a bit of
gravel, which, seized with the mandibles, crushed perhaps, would be
sent to join the rubbish-heap outside. Once removed from the soil and
exposed to the inclemencies of the weather, the pupa would inevitably
perish.

I admire this intelligent foresight of the maggot, which forgoes the
comfort of the moment for the security of the future. Two dangers
threaten it: to be immured in a casket whence the Fly can never
issue; or else to die out of doors, in the unkindly air, when the Bee
sweeps out the restored cells. To avoid this twofold peril, it
decamps before the door is closed, before the July Halictus sets her
house in order.

Let us now see what comes of the parasite's intrusion. In the course
of June, when peace is established in the Halictus' home, I dig up my
largest village, comprising some fifty burrows in all. None of the
sorrows of this underworld shall escape me. There are four of us
engaged in sifting the excavated earth through our fingers. What one
has examined another takes up and examines; and then another and
another yet. The returns are heartrending. We do not succeed in
finding one single nymph of the Halictus. The whole of the populous
city has perished; and its place has been taken by the Gnat. There is
a glut of that individual's pupae. I collect them in order to trace
their evolution.

The year runs its course; and the little russet kegs, into which the
original maggots have hardened and contracted, remain stationary.
They are seeds endowed with latent life. The heats of July do not
rouse them from their torpor. In that month, the period of the second
generation of the Halictus, there is a sort of truce of God: the
parasite rests and the Bee works in peace. If hostilities were to be
resumed straight away, as murderous in summer as they were in spring,
the progeny of the Halictus, too cruelly smitten, might possibly
disappear altogether. This lull readjusts the balance.

In April, when the Zebra Halictus, in search of a good place for her
burrows, roams up and down the garden paths with her oscillating
flight, the parasite, on its side, hastens to hatch. Oh, the precise
and terrible agreement between those two calendars, the calendar of
the persecutor and the persecuted! At the very moment when the Bee
comes out, here is the Gnat: she is ready to begin her deadly
starving-process all over again.

Were this an isolated case, one's mind would not dwell upon it: an
Halictus more or less in the world makes little difference in the
general balance. But, alas, brigandage in all its forms is the rule
in the eternal conflict of living things! From the lowest to the
highest, every producer is exploited by the unproductive. Man
himself, whose exceptional rank ought to raise him above such
baseness, excels in this ravening lust. He says to himself that
business means getting hold of other people's cash, even as the Gnat
says to herself that business means getting hold of the Halictus'
honey. And, to play the brigand to better purpose, he invents war,
the art of killing wholesale and of doing with glory that which, when
done on a smaller scale, leads to the gallows.

Shall we never behold the realization of that sublime vision which is
sung on Sundays in the smallest village-church: Gloria in excelsis
Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis! If war affected
humanity alone, perhaps the future would have peace in store for us,
seeing that generous minds are working for it with might and main;
but the scourge also rages among the lower animals, which in their
obstinate way, will never listen to reason. Once the evil is laid
down as a general condition, it perhaps becomes incurable. Life in
the future, it is to be feared, will be what it is to-day, a
perpetual massacre.

Whereupon, by a desperate effort of the imagination, one pictures to
oneself a giant capable of juggling with the planets. He is
irresistible strength; he is also law and justice. He knows of our
battles, our butcheries, our farm-burnings, our town-burnings, our
brutal triumphs; he knows our explosives, our shells, our torpedo-
boats, our ironclads and all our cunning engines of destruction; he
knows as well the appalling extent of the appetites among all
creatures, down to the very lowest. Well, if that just and mighty one
held the earth under his thumb, would he hesitate whether he ought to
crush it?

He would not hesitate...He would let things take their course. He
would say to himself:

'The old belief is right; the earth is a rotten apple, gnawed by the
vermin of evil. It is a first crude attempt, a step towards a
kindlier destiny. Let it be: order and justice are waiting at the
end.'





Next: THE HALICTI THE PORTRESS

Previous: THE POISON OF THE BEE



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