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Were strength to take precedence over the other zoological attributes, the
Scoliae would hold a predominant place in the front rank of the Wasps. Some
of them may be compared in size with the little bird from the north, the
Golden-crested Wren, who comes to us at the time of the first autumn mists
and visits the rotten buds. The largest and most imposing of our sting-
bearers, the Carpenter-bee, the Bumble-bee, the Hornet, cut a poor figure
beside certain of the Scoliae. Of this group of giants my district
possesses the Garden Scolia (S. hortorum, VAN DER LIND), who is over an
inch and a half in length and measures four inches from tip to tip of her
outspread wings, and the Hemorrhoidal Scolia (S. haemorrhoidalis, VAN DER
LIND), who rivals the Garden Scolia in point of size and is distinguished
more particularly by the bundle of red hairs bristling at the tip of the

A black livery, with broad yellow patches; leathery wings, amber-coloured,
like the skin of an onion, and watered with purple reflections; thick,
knotted legs, covered with sharp hairs; a massive frame; a powerful head,
encased in a hard cranium; a stiff, clumsy gait; a low, short, silent
flight: this gives you a concise description of the female, who is strongly
equipped for her arduous task. The male, being a mere philanderer, sports a
more elegant pair of horns, is more daintily clad and has a more graceful
figure, without altogether losing the quality of robustness which is his
consort's leading characteristic.

It is not without a certain alarm that the insect-collector finds himself
for the first time confronted by the Garden Scolia. How is he to capture
the imposing creature, how to avoid its sting? If its effect is in
proportion to the Wasp's size, the sting of the Scolia must be something
terrible. The Hornet, though she unsheath her weapon but once, causes the
most exquisite pain. What would it be like if one were stabbed by this
colossus? The prospect of a swelling as big as a man's fist and as painful
as the touch of a red-hot iron passes through our mind at the moment when
we are bringing down the net. And we refrain, we beat a retreat, we are
greatly relieved not to have aroused the dangerous creature's attention.

Yes, I confess to having run away from my first Scoliae, anxious though I
was to enrich my budding collection with this magnificent insect. There
were painful recollections of the Common Wasp and the Hornet connected with
this excess of prudence. I say excess, for to-day, instructed by long
experience, I have quite recovered from my former fears; and, when I see a
Scolia resting on a thistle-head, I do not scruple to take her in my
fingers, without any precaution whatever, however large she may be and
however menacing her aspect. My courage is not all that it seems to be; I
am quite ready to tell the Wasp-hunting novice this. The Scoliae are
notably peaceable. Their sting is an implement of labour far more than a
weapon of war; they use it to paralyse the prey destined for their
offspring; and only in the last extremity do they employ it in self-
defence. Moreover, the lack of agility in their movements nearly always
enables us to avoid their sting; and, even if we be stung, the pain is
almost insignificant. This absence of any acute smarting as a result of the
poison is almost constant in the Hunting Wasps, whose weapon is a surgical
lancet and devised for the most delicate physiological operations.

Among the other Scoliae of my district I will mention the Two-banded Scolia
(S. bifasciata, VAN DER LIND), whom I see every year, in September, working
at the heaps of leaf-mould which are placed for her benefit in a corner of
my paddock; and the Interrupted Scolia (S. interrupta, LATR.), the
inhabitant of the sandy soil at the foot of the neighbouring hills. Much
smaller than the two preceding insects, but also much commoner, a necessary
condition of continuous observation, they will provide me with the
principal data for this study of the Scoliae.

I open my old note book; and I see myself once more, on the 6th of August,
1857, in the Bois des Issards, that famous copse near Avignon which I have
celebrated in my essay on the Bembex-wasps. (Cf. "The Hunting Wasps":
chapter 14.--Translator's Note.) Once again, my head crammed with
entomological projects, I am at the beginning of my holidays which, for two
months, will allow me to indulge in the insect's company.

A fig for Mariotte's flask and Toricelli's tube! (Edme Mariotte (1620-
1684), a French chemist who discovered, independently of Robert Boyle the
Irishman (1627-1691), the law generally known as Boyle's law, which states
that the product of the volume and the temperature of a gas is constant at
constant temperature. His flask is an apparatus contrived to illustrate
atmospheric pressure and ensure a constant flow of liquid.--Translator's
Note.) (Evangelista Toricelli (1608-1647), a disciple of Galileo and
professor of philosophy and mathematics at Florence. His "tube" is our
mercury barometer. He was the first to obtain a vacuum by means of mercury;
and he also improved the microscope and the telescope.--Translator's Note.)
This is the thrice-blest period when I cease to be a schoolmaster and
become a schoolboy, the schoolboy in love with animals. Like a madder-
cutter off for his day's work, I set out carrying over my shoulder a solid
digging-implement, the local luchet, and on my back my game-bag with boxes,
bottles, trowel, glass tubes, tweezers, lenses and other impedimenta. A
large umbrella saves me from sunstroke. It is the most scorching hour of
the hottest day in the year. Exhausted by the heat, the Cicadae are
silent. The bronze-eyed Gad-flies seek a refuge from the pitiless sun under
the roof of my silken shelter; other large Flies, the sobre-hued Pangoniae,
dash themselves recklessly against my face.

The spot at which I have installed myself is a sandy clearing which I had
recognized the year before as a site beloved of the Scoliae. Here and there
are scattered thickets of holm-oak, whose dense undergrowth shelters a bed
of dead leaves and a thin layer of mould. My memory has served me well.
Here, sure enough, as the heat grows a little less, appear, coming I know
not from whence, some Two-banded Scoliae. The number increases; and it is
not long before I see very nearly a dozen of them about me, close enough
for observation. By their smaller size and more buoyant flight, they are
easily known for males. Almost grazing the ground, they fly softly, going
to and fro, passing and repassing in every direction. From time to time one
of them alights on the ground, feels the sand with his antennae and seems
to be enquiring into what is happening in the depths of the soil; then he
resumes his flight, alternately coming and going.

What are they waiting for? What are they seeking in these evolutions of
theirs, which are repeated a hundred times over? Food? No, for close beside
them stand several eryngo-stems, whose sturdy clusters are the Wasps' usual
resource at this season of parched vegetation; and not one of them settles
upon the flowers, not one of them seems to care about their sugary
exudations. Their attention is engrossed elsewhere. It is the ground, it is
the stretch of sand which they are so assiduously exploring; what they are
waiting for is the arrival of some female, who bursting the cocoon, may
appear from one moment to the next, issuing all dusty from the ground. She
will not be given time to brush herself or to wash her eyes: three or four
more of them will be there at once, eager to dispute her possession. I am
too familiar with the amorous contests of the Hymenopteron clan to allow
myself to be mistaken. It is the rule for the males, who are the earlier of
the two, to keep a close guard around the natal spot and watch for the
emergence of the females, whom they pester with their pursuit the moment
they reach the light of day. This is the motive of the interminable ballet
of my Scoliae. Let us have patience: perhaps we shall witness the nuptials.

The hours go by; the Pangoniae and the Gad-flies desert my umbrella; the
Scoliae grow weary and gradually disappear. It is finished. I shall see
nothing more to-day. I repeat my laborious expedition to the Bois des
Issards over and over again; and each time I see the males as assiduous as
ever in skimming over the ground. My perseverance deserved to succeed. It
did, though the success was very incomplete. Let me describe it, such as it
was; the future will fill up the gaps.

A female issues from the soil before my eyes. She flies away, followed by
several males. With the luchet I dig at the point of emergence; and, as the
excavation progresses, I sift between my fingers the rubbish of sand mixed
with mould. In the sweat of my brow, as I may justly say, I must have
removed nearly a cubic yard of material, when at last I make a find. This
is a recently ruptured cocoon, to the side of which adheres an empty skin,
the last remnant of the game on which the larva fed that wrought the said
cocoon. Considering the good condition of its silken fabric, this cocoon
may have belonged to the Scolia who has just quitted her underground
dwelling before my eyes. As for the skin accompanying it, this has been so
much spoilt by the moisture of the soil and by the grassy roots that I
cannot determine its origin exactly. The cranium, however, which is better-
preserved, the mandibles and certain details of the general configuration
lead me to suspect the larva of a Lamellicorn.

It is getting late. This is enough for to-day. I am worn out, but amply
repaid for my exertions by a broken cocoon and the puzzling skin of a
wretched grub. Young people who make a hobby of natural history, would you
like to discover whether the sacred fire flows in your veins? Imagine
yourselves returning from such an expedition. You are carrying on your
shoulder the peasant's heavy spade; your loins are stiff with the laborious
digging which you have just finished in a crouching position; the heat of
an August afternoon has set your brain simmering; your eyelids are tired by
the itch of an inflammation resulting from the overpowering light in which
you have been working; you have a devouring thirst; and before you lies the
dusty prospect of the miles that divide you from your well-earned rest. Yet
something stings within you; forgetful of your present woes you are
absolutely glad of your excursion. Why? Because you have in your possession
a shred of rotten skin. If this is so, my young friends, you may go ahead,
for you will do something, though I warn you that this does not mean, by a
long way, that you will get on in the world.

I examined this shred of skin with all the care that it deserved. My first
suspicions were confirmed: a Lamellicorn, a Scarabaeid in the larval state,
is the first food of the Wasp whose cocoon I have just unearthed. But which
of the Scarabaeidae? And does this cocoon, my precious booty, really belong
to the Scoliae? The problem is beginning to take shape. To attempt its
solution we must go back to the Bois des Issards.

I did go back and so often that my patience ended by being exhausted before
the problem of the Scoliae had received a satisfactory solution. The
difficulties are great indeed, under the conditions. Where am I to dig in
the indefinite stretch of sandy soil to light upon a spot frequented by the
Scoliae? The luchet is driven into the ground at random; and almost
invariably I find none of what I am seeking. To be sure, the males, flying
level with the ground, give me a hint, at the outset, with their certainty
of instinct, as to the spots where the females ought to be; but their hints
are very vague, because they go so far in every direction. If I wished to
examine the soil which a single male explores in his flight, with its
constantly changing course, I should have to turn over, to the depth of
perhaps a yard, at least four poles of earth. This is too much for my
strength and the time at my disposal. Then, as the season advances, the
males disappear, whereupon I am suddenly deprived of their hints. To know
more or less where I should thrust my luchet, I have only one resource
left, which is to watch for the females emerging from the ground or else
entering it. With a great expenditure of time and patience I have at last
had this windfall, very rarely, I admit.

The Scoliae do not dig a burrow which can be compared with that of the
other Hunting Wasps; they have no fixed residence, with an unimpeded
gallery opening on the outer world and giving access to the cells, the
abodes of the larvae. They have no entrance- and exit-doors, no corridor
built in advance. If they have to make their way underground, any point not
hitherto turned over serves their purpose, provided that it be not too hard
for their digging-tools, which, for that matter, are very powerful; if they
have to come out, the point of exit is no less indifferent. The Scolia does
not bore the soil through which she passes: she excavates and ploughs it
with her legs and forehead; and the stuff shifted remains where it lies,
behind her, forthwith blocking the passage which she has followed. When she
is about to emerge into the outer world, her advent is heralded by the
fresh soil which heaps itself into a mound as though heaved up by the snout
of some tiny Mole. The insect sallies forth; and the mound collapses,
completely filling up the exit-hole. If the Wasp is entering the ground,
the digging-operations, undertaken at an arbitrary point, quickly yield a
cavity in which the Scolia disappears, separated from the surface by the
whole track of shifted material.

I can easily trace her passage through the thickness of the soil by certain
long, winding cylinders, formed of loose materials in the midst of compact
and stable earth. These cylinders are numerous; they sometimes run to a
depth of twenty inches; they extend in all directions, fairly often
crossing one another. Not one of them ever exhibits so much as a suspicion
of an open gallery. They are obviously not permanent ways of communication
with the outer world, but hunting-trails which the insect has followed
once, without going back to them. What was the Wasp seeking when she
riddled the soil with these tunnels which are now full of running sands? No
doubt the food for her family, the larva of which I possess the empty skin,
now an unrecognizable shred.

I begin to see a little light: the Scoliae are underground workers. I
already expected as much, having before now captured Scoliae soiled with
little earthy encrustations on the joints of the legs. The Wasp, who is so
careful to keep clean, taking advantage of the least leisure to brush and
polish herself, could never display such blemishes unless she were a
devoted earth-worker. I used to suspect their trade, now I know it. They
live underground, where they burrow in search of Lamellicorn-grubs, just as
the Mole burrows in search of the White Worm. (The larva of the Cockchafer.
This grub takes three years or more to arrive at maturity underground.--
Translator's Note.) It is even possible that, after receiving the embraces
of the males, they but very rarely return to the surface, absorbed as they
are by their maternal duties; and this, no doubt, is why my patience
becomes exhausted in watching for their entrance and their emergence.

It is in the subsoil that they establish themselves and travel to and fro;
with the help of their powerful mandibles, their hard cranium, their
strong, prickly legs, they easily make themselves paths in the loose earth.
They are living ploughshares. By the end of August, therefore, the female
population is for the most part underground, busily occupied in egg-laying
and provisioning. Everything seems to tell me that I should watch in vain
for the appearance of a few females in the broad daylight; I must resign
myself to excavating at random.

The result was hardly commensurate with the labour which I expended on
digging. I found a few cocoons, nearly all broken, like the one which I
already possessed, and, like it, bearing on their side the tattered skin of
a larva of the same Scarabaeid. Two of these cocoons which are still intact
contained a dead adult Wasp. This was actually the Two-banded Scolia, a
precious discovery which changed my suspicions into a certainty.

I also unearthed some cocoons, slightly different in appearance, containing
an adult inmate, likewise dead, in whom I recognized the Interrupted
Scolia. The remnants of the provisions again consisted of the empty skin of
a larva, also a Lamellicorn, but not the same as the one hunted by the
first Scolia. And this was all. Now here, now there, I shifted a few cubic
yards of soil, without managing to find fresh provisions with the egg or
the young larva. And yet it was the right season, the egg-laying season,
for the males, numerous at the outset, had grown rarer day by day until
they disappeared entirely. My lack of success was due to the uncertainty of
my excavations, in which I had nothing to guide me over the indefinite area

If I could at least identify the Scarabaeidae whose larvae form the prey of
the two Scoliae, the problem would be half solved. Let us try. I collect
all that the luchet has turned up: larvae, nymphs and adult Beetles. My
booty comprises two species of Lamellicorns: Anoxia villosa and Euchlora
Julii, both of whom I find in the perfect state, usually dead, but
sometimes alive. I obtain a few of their nymphs, a great piece of luck, for
the larval skin which accompanies them will serve me as a standard of
comparison. I come upon plenty of larvae, of all ages. When I compare them
with the cast garment abandoned by the nymphs, I recognize some as
belonging to the Anoxia and the rest to the Euchlora.

With these data, I perceive with absolute certainty that the empty skin
adhering to the cocoon of the Interrupted Scolia belongs to the Anoxia. As
for the Euchlora, she is not involved in the problem: the larva hunted by
the Two-banded Scolia does not belong to her any more than it belongs to
the Anoxia. Then with which Scarabaeid does the empty skin which is still
unknown to me correspond? The Lamellicorn whom I am seeking must exist in
the ground which I have been exploring, because the Two-banded Scolia has
established herself there. Later--oh, very long afterwards!--I recognized
where my search was at fault. In order not to find a network of roots
beneath my luchet and to render the work of excavation lighter, I was
digging the bare places, at some distance from the thickets of holm-oak;
and it was just in those thickets, which are rich in vegetable mould, that
I should have sought. There, near the old stumps, in the soil consisting of
dead leaves and rotting wood, I should certainly have come upon the larva
so greatly desired, as will be proved by what I have still to say.

Here ends what my earlier investigations taught me. There is reason to
believe that the Bois des Issards would never have furnished me with the
precise data, in the form in which I wanted them. The remoteness of the
spot, the fatigue of the expeditions, which the heat rendered intensely
exhausting, the impossibility of knowing which points to attack would
undoubtedly have discouraged me before the problem had advanced a step
farther. Studies such as these call for home leisure and application, for
residence in a country village. You are then familiar with every spot in
your own grounds and the surrounding country and you can go to work with

Twenty-three years have passed; and here I am at Serignan, where I have
become a peasant, working by turns on my writing-pad and my cabbage-patch.
On the 14th of August, 1880, Favier (An ex-soldier who acted as the
author's gardener and factotum.--Translator's Note.) clears away a heap of
mould consisting of vegetable refuse and of leaves stacked in a corner
against the wall of the paddock. This clearance is considered necessary
because Bull, when the lovers' moon arrives, uses this hillock to climb to
the top of the wall and thence to repair to the canine wedding the news of
which is brought to him by the effluvia borne upon the air. His pilgrimage
fulfilled, he returns, with a discomfited look and a slit ear, but always
ready, once he has had his feed, to repeat the escapade. To put an end to
this licentious behaviour, which has cost him so many gaping wounds, we
decided to remove the heap of soil which serves him as a ladder of escape.

Favier calls me while in the midst of his labours with the spade and

"Here's a find, sir, a great find! Come and look."

I hasten to the spot. The find is a magnificent one indeed and of a nature
to fill me with delight, awakening all my old recollections of the Bois des
Issards. Any number of females of the Two-banded Scolia, disturbed at their
work, are emerging here and there from the depth of the soil. The cocoons
also are plentiful, each lying next to the skin of the victim on which the
larva has fed. They are all open but still fresh: they date from the
present generation; the Scoliae whom I unearth have quitted them not long
since. I learnt later, in fact, that the hatching took place in the course
of July.

In the same heap of mould is a swarming colony of Scarabaeidae in the form
of larvae, nymphs and adult insects. It includes the largest of our
Beetles, the common Rhinoceros Beetle, or Oryctes nasicornis. I find some
who have been recently liberated, whose wing-cases, of a glossy brown, now
see the sunlight for the first time; I find others enclosed in their
earthen shell, almost as big as a Turkey's egg. More frequent is her
powerful larva, with its heavy paunch, bent into a hook. I note the
presence of a second bearer of the nasal horn, Oryctes Silenus, who is much
smaller than her kinswoman, and of Pentodon punctatus, a Scarabaeid who
ravages my lettuces.

But the predominant population consists of Cetoniae, or Rosechafers, most
of them enclosed in their egg-shaped shells, with earthen walls encrusted
with dung. There are three different species: C. aurata, C. morio and C.
floricola. Most of them belong to the first species. Their larvae, which
are easily recognized by their singular talent for walking on their backs
with their legs in the air, are numbered by the hundred. Every age is
represented, from the new born grub to the podgy larva on the point of
building its shell.

This time the problem of the victuals is solved. When I compare the larval
slough sticking to the Scolia's cocoons with the Cetonia-larvae or, better,
with the skin cast by these larvae, under cover of the cocoon, at the
moment of the nymphal transformation, I establish an absolute identity. The
Two-banded Scolia rations each of her eggs with a Cetonia-grub. Behold the
riddle which my irksome searches in the Bois des Issards had not enabled me
to solve. To-day, at my threshold, the difficult problem becomes child's
play. I can investigate the question easily to the fullest possible extent;
I need not put myself out at all; at any hour of the day, at any period
that seems favourable, I have the requisite elements before my eyes. Ah,
dear village, so poor, so countrified, how happily inspired was I when I
came to ask of you a hermit's retreat, where I could live in the company of
my beloved insects and, in so doing, set down not too unworthily a few
chapters of their wonderful history!

According to the Italian observer Passerini, the Garden Scolia feeds her
family on the larvae of Oryctes nasicornis, in the heaps of old tan-waste
removed from the hot-houses. I do not despair of seeing this colossal Wasp
coming to establish herself one day in my heaps of leaf-mould, in which the
same Scarabaeid is swarming. Her rarity in my part of the country is
probably the only cause that has hitherto prevented the realization of my

I have just shown that the Two-banded Scolia feeds in infancy on Cetonia-
larvae and particularly on those of C. aurata, C. morio and C. floricola.
These three species dwell together in the rubbish-heap just explored; their
larvae differ so little that I should have to examine them minutely to
distinguish the one from the other; and even then I should not be certain
of succeeding. It seems probable that the Scolia does not choose between
them, that she uses all three indiscriminately. Perhaps she even assails
other larvae, inhabitants, like the foregoing, of heaps of rotting
vegetable-matter. I therefore set down the Cetonia genus generally as
forming the prey of the Two-banded Scolia.

Lastly, round about Avignon, the Interrupted Scolia used to prey upon the
larva of the Shaggy Anoxia (A. villosa). At Serignan, which is surrounded
by the same kind of sandy soil, without other vegetation than a few sparse
seed-bearing grasses, I find her rationing her young with the Morning
Anoxia (A. matutinalis). Oryctes, Cetoniae and Anoxiae in the larval state:
here then is the prey of the three Scoliae whose habits we know. The three
Beetles are Lamellicorns, Scarabaeidae. We shall have occasion later to
consider the reason of this very striking coincidence.

For the moment, the business in hand is to move the heap of leaf-mould to
some other place, with the wheelbarrow. This is Favier's work, while I
myself collect the disturbed population in glass jars, in order to put them
back into the new rubbish-heap with all the consideration which my plans
owe to them. The laying-time has not yet set in, for I find no eggs, no
young Scolia-larvae. September apparently will be the propitious month. But
there are bound to be many injured in the course of this upheaval; some of
the Scoliae have flown away who will perhaps have a certain difficulty in
finding the new site; I have disarranged everything in the overturned heap.
To allow tranquility to be restored and habit to resume its rounds, to give
the population time to increase and replace the fugitives and the injured,
it would be best, I think, to leave the heap alone this year and not to
resume my investigations until the next. After the thorough confusion due
to the removal, I should jeopardize success by being too precipitate. Let
us wait one year more. I decide accordingly, curb my impatience and resign
myself. We will simply confine ourselves to enlarging the heap, when the
leaves begin to fall, by accumulating the refuse that strews the paddock,
so that we may have a richer field of operations.

In the following August, my visits to the mound of leaf-mould become a
daily habit. By two o'clock in the afternoon, when the sun has cleared the
adjacent pine-trees and is shining on the heap, numbers of male Scoliae
arrive from the neighbouring fields, where they have been slaking their
thirst on the eryngo-heads. Incessantly coming and going with an indolent
flight, they circle round the heap. If some female rise from the soil,
those who have seen her dart forward. A not very turbulent affray decides
which of the suitors shall be the possessor; and the couple fly away over
the wall. This is a repetition of what I used to see in the Bois des
Issards. By the time that August is over. The males have ceased to show
themselves. The mothers do not appear either: they are busy underground,
establishing their families.

On the 2nd of September, I decide upon a search with my son Emile, who
handles the fork and the shovel, while I examine the clods dug up. Victory!
A magnificent result, finer than any that my fondest ambition would have
dared to contemplate! Here is a vast array of Cetonia-larvae, all flaccid,
motionless, lying on their backs, with a Scolia's egg sticking to the
centre of their abdomen; here are young Scolia-larvae dipping their heads
into the entrails of their victims; here are others farther advanced,
munching their last mouthfuls of a prey which is drained dry and reduced to
a skin; here are some laying the foundation of their cocoons with a reddish
silk, which looks as if it had been dyed in Bullock's blood; here are some
whose cocoons are finished. There is plenty of everything, from the egg to
the larva whose period of activity is over. I mark the 2nd of September as
a red-letter day; it has given me the final key to a riddle which has kept
me in suspense for nearly half a century.

I place my spoils religiously in shallow, wide-mouthed glass jars
containing a layer of finely sifted mould. In this soft bed, which is
identical in character with the natal surroundings, I make some faint
impressions with my fingers, so many cavities, each of which receives one
of my subjects, one only. A pane of glass covers the mouth of the
receptacle. In this way I prevent a too rapid evaporation and keep my
nurselings under my eyes without fear of disturbing them. Now that all this
is in order, let us proceed to record events.

The Cetonia-larvae which I find with a Scolia's egg upon their ventral
surface are distributed in the mould at random, without special cavities,
without any sign of some sort of structure. They are smothered in the
mould, just as are the larvae which have not been injured by the Wasp. As
my excavations in the Bois des Issards told me, the Scolia does not prepare
a lodging for her family; she knows nothing of the art of cell-building.
Her offspring occupies a fortuitous abode, on which the mother expends no
architectural pains. Whereas the other Hunting Wasps prepare a dwelling to
which the provisions are carried, sometimes from a distance, the Scolia
confines herself to digging her bed of leaf-mould until she comes upon a
Cetonia-larva. When she finds a quarry, she stabs it on the spot, in order
to immobilize it; and, again on the spot, she lays an egg on the ventral
surface of the paralysed creature. That is all. The mother goes in quest of
another prey without troubling further about the egg which has just been
laid. There is no effort of carting or building. At the very spot where the
Cetonia-grub is caught and paralysed, the Scolia-larva hatches, grows and
weaves its cocoon. The establishment of the family is thus reduced to the
simplest possible expression.



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