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A scene so rude, so wild as this,
Where'er I happed to roam.'
No marvel thus the monarch spoke,
For rarely human eye has known A scene so stern as that dead lake,
With its dark ledge of barren stone.
Through the rude bosom of the hill,
Tells of that outrage still.
And copse on Cruchan-Ben;
On mountain or in glen,
The weary eye may ken;
As if were here denied
The bleakest mountain-side.
And wilder, forward as they wound,
For, from the mountain hoar,
Loose crags had toppled o'er ;
A mass no host could raise;
On its precarious base.
The evening mists, with ceaseless change,
Now left their foreheads bare ;
Dispersed in middle air.
Pours like a torrent down :
Sir W. Scott.
This part of the country abounds in ant-hills. In the open parts they are studded over the surface exactly as haycocks are in harvest, rather disfiguring the landscape. In the woods they are as large as round haystacks, forty or fifty feet in diameter at the base, and at least twenty feet high. These are more fertile than the rest of the land.
Walking down to the forest, I observed many regiments of black soldier-ants returning from their marauding expeditions. These I have often noticed before in different parts of the country. They are black, with a slight tinge of grey, about half an inch in length, and on the line of march appear three or four abreast. When disturbed, they utter a hissing, or chirping sound. They follow a few leaders, never carry anything, and they seem to be guided by a scent left on the path by the leaders ; for happening once to throw the water from my basin behind a bush where I was dressing, it lighted on the path by which a regiment had passed before I began my toilet, and when they returned they were totally at a loss to find the way home, though they continued searching for it nearly half an hour. found only by one making a long circuit round
the wetted spot. The scent may have indicated also the propriety of their going in one direction only. If a handful of earth is thrown on the path at the middle of the regiment, either on its way home or abroad, those behind it are completely at a loss as to their further progress. Whatever it may be that guides them, they seem only to know that they are not to return, for they come up to the handful of earth, but will not cross it, though not a quarter of an inch high. They wheel round, and regain their path, but never think of retreating to the nest, or to the place where they have been stealing. After a quarter of an hour's confusion and hissing, one may make a circuit of a foot round the earth, and soon all follow in that roundabout way. When on their way to attack the abode of the white ants, the latter may be observed rushing about in a state of great perturbation, The black leaders, distinguished from the rest by their greater size, then seize the white ants one by one, and inflict a sting which seems to render them insensible, but not dead, and only able to move one or two front legs. As the leaders toss them on one side, the rank and file seize them, and carry them off.
On first observing these marauding insects, I had the idea that they seized the white ants in order to make them slaves; but having rescued a number of captives, I placed them aside, and found that they never recovered from the state of insensibility into which they had been thrown by the leaders. In addition to this, if any one examines the opening by which the black ant enters his barracks, he will always find a little heap of hard heads and legs of the white ants, showing that these black ruffians are a grade lower than slave-dealers, being actually cannibals.
Without these black soldier-ants the country would be overrun by the white ants, they are so extremely prolific, and nothing can exceed the energy with which they work. They perform a most important part in the economy of nature, by burying vegetable matter as quickly beneath the soil as the ferocious red ant does animal substances. The white ants keep generally out of sight, and work under galleries constructed by night to screen them from the observation of birds. At some given signal, however, I never could ascertain what, they rush out by hundreds, and the sound of their mandibles cutting grass into lengths may be heard like a gentle wind murmuring through the leaves of the trees. They drag these pieces to the doors of their abodes, and after some hours' toil, leave off work, and many of the bits of grass may be seen collected round the orifice. They continue out of sight for perhaps a month, but they are never idle. On one occasion a good bundle of grass was laid down for my bed, on a spot quite smooth and destitute of plants. The ants at once sounded the call to a good supply of grass. I heard them incessantly nibbling and carrying away all that night; and they continued all next day (Sunday),