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contained in those signs! It was thought a wonderful thing when at last the strange inscriptions of Assyria were read, made of nail-headed characters whose sound was lost; it was thought a triumph when the yet older hieroglyphics of Egypt were compelled to give up their messages, and the world hoped that we should know the secrets of life. That hope was disappointed; there was nothing in the records but superstition and useless ritual. But here we go back to the beginning; the antiquity of Egypt is nothing to the age of these signs--they date from unfathomable time. In them the sun has written his commands, and the wind inscribed deep thought. They were before superstition began; they were composed in the old, old world, when the Immortals walked on earth. They have been handed down thousands upon thousands of years to tell us that to-day we are still in the presence of the heavenly visitants, if only we will give up the soul to these pure influences. The language in which they are written has no alphabet, and cannot be reduced to order. It can only be understood by the heart and spirit. Look down into this foxglove bell and you will know that; look long and lovingly at this blue butterfly's underwing, and a feeling will rise to your consciousness.
Some time passed, but the butterfly did not move; a touch presently disturbed him, and flutter, flutter went his blue wings, only for a few seconds, to another grass-stalk, and so on from grass-stalk to grass-stalk as compelled, a yard flight at most. He would not go farther; he settled as if it had been night. There was no sunshine, and under the clouds he had no
animation. A swallow went by singing in the air, and as he flew his forked tail was shut, and but one streak of feathers drawn past. Though but young trees, there was a coating of fallen needles under the firs an inch thick, and beneath it the dry earth touched warm. A fern here and there came up through it, the palest of pale green, quite a different colour to the same species growing in the hedges away from the copse. A yellow fungus, streaked with scarlet as if blood had soaked into it, stood at the foot of a tree occasionally. Black fungi, dry, shrivelled, and dead, lay fallen about, detached from the places where they had grown, and crumbling if handled. Still more silent after sunset, the wood was utterly quiet; the swallows no longer passed twittering, the willow-wren was gone, there was no hum or rustle; the wood was as silent as a shadow.
But before the darkness a song and an answer arose in a tree, one bird singing a few notes and another replying side by side. Two goldfinches sat on the cross of a larch-fir and sang, looking towards the west, where the light lingered. High up, the larch-fir boughs with the top shoot form a cross; on this one goldfinch sat, the other was immediately beneath. At even the birds often turn to the west as they sing.
Next morning the August sun shone, and the wood was all a-hum with insects. The wasps were working at the pine boughs high overhead; the bees by dozens were crowding to the bramble flowers; swarming on them, they seemed so delighted; humble-bees went wandering among the ferns in the copse and in the ditches--they sometimes alight on fern-and calling
at every purple heath-blossom, at the purple knapweeds, purple thistles, and broad handfuls of yellowweed flowers. Wasp-like flies barred with yellow suspended themselves in the air between the pinetrunks like hawks hovering, and suddenly shot themselves a yard forward or to one side, as if the rapid vibration of their wings while hovering had accumulated force which drove them as if discharged from a cross-bow. The sun had set all things in motion.
There was a hum under the oak by the hedge, a hum in the pine wood, a humming among the heath and the dry grass which heat had browned. The air was alive and merry with sound, so that the day seemed quite different and twice as pleasant. Three blue butterflies fluttered in one flowery corner, the warmth gave them vigour; two had a silvery edging to their wings, one was brown and blue. The nuts reddening at the tips appeared ripening like apples in the sunshine. This corner is a favourite with wild bees and butterflies ; if the sun shines they are sure to be found there at the heath-bloom and tall yellowweed, and among the dry seeding bennets or grassstalks. All things, even butterflies, are local in their habits. Far up on the hillside the blue green of the pines beneath shone in the sun-a burnished colour; the high hillside is covered with heath and heather. Where there are open places a small species of gorse, scarcely six inches high, is in bloom, the yellow blossom on the extremity of the stalk.
Some of these gorse plants seemed to have a different flower growing at the side of the stem, instead of at
the extremity. These florets were cream-coloured, so that it looked like a new species of gorse. On gathering it to examine the thick-set florets, it was found that a slender runner or creeper had been torn up
with it. Like a thread the creeper had wound itself round and round the furze, buried in and hidden by the prickles, and it was this creeper that bore the white or cream-florets. It was tied round as tightly as thread could be, so that the florets seemed to start from the stem, deceiving the eye at first. In some places this parasite plant had grown up the heath and strangled it, so that the tips turned brown and died. The runners extended in every direction across the ground, like those of strawberries. One creeper had climbed up a bennet, or seeding grass-stalk, binding the stalk and a blade of the grass together, and flowering there. On the ground there were patches of grey lichen; many of the pillar-like stems were crowned with a red top. Under a small boulder stone there was an ants' nest. These boulders, or, as they are called locally, "bowlers," were scattered about the neath. Many of the lesser stones were spotted with dark dots of lichen, not unlike a toad.
Thoughtlessly turning over a boulder about nine inches square, lo! there was subject enough for thinking underneath it—a subject that has been thought about many thousand years; for this piece of rock had formed the roof of an ants' nest. The stone had sunk three inches deep into the dry soil of sand and peaty mould, and in the floor of the hole the ants had worked out their excavations, which resembled an outline map. The largest excavation was like England ; at the top, or north, they had left a narrow bridge, an eighth of an inch wide, under which to pass into Scotland, and from Scotland again another narrow arch led to the Orkney Islands; these last, however, were dug in the perpendicular side of the hole. In the corners of these excavations tunnels ran deeper into the ground, and the ants immediately began hurrying their treasures, the eggs, down into these cellars. At one angle a tunnel went beneath the heath into further excavations beneath a second boulder stone. Without, a fern grew, and the dead dry stems of heather crossed each other.
This discovery led to the turning over of another boulder stone not far off, and under it there appeared a much more extensive and complete series of galleries, bridges, cellars and tunnels. In these the whole lifehistory of the ant was exposed at a single glance, as if one had taken off the roofs of a city. One cell contained a dust-like deposit, another a collection resembling the dust, but now elongated and a little greenish ; a third treasury, much larger, was piled up with yellowish grains about the size of wheat, each with a black dot on the top, and looking like minute hop-pockets. Besides these, there was a pure white substance in a corridor, which the irritated ants seemed particularly anxious to remove out of sight, and quickly carried away. Among the ants rushing about there were several with wings; one took flight; one was seized by a wingless ant and dragged down into a cellar, as if to prevent its taking wing. A helpless green fly was in the midst, and round the outside galleries there crept a creature like