Little Busybodies by Jeanette Augustus Marks and Julia Moody
The following passage is about children at a summer camp. The camp leaders havepromised a prize to the child who learns the most about insects. On their last night atcamp, they gather to tell what they have learned.
1. The evening party at the cabin of Ben, the guide, was to be the last of all the beautiful summer, for the next day, the children were to leave camp and go back to the city. This was the evening which was to decide who was to receive the prize.
2. When it was Jack's turn to speak, he said, "I found out that in every ant colony there are always three kinds of ants-the queens, the males, and the workers. They were happy together, busy with their work, and never quarrel. I suppose they were happy because each one had some special work to do. I looked it all up, and I found that some are born queens while others are born workers. But, they are all content.
3. "The queen ant is not a real queen ruling a little kingdom. She is the mother ant, and lays all the eggs. She is well cared for and protected by the workers. These are the active little ants that do the work. They are happy, too, running about, digging new passageways, clearing the paths to their front doors, and bringing in food. Some ants, sir, build their tunnels very deep underground. A doorway opens into a wide room, from which others branch out and wind their way down into the dark ground. Sometimes they build a high mound around the entrance."
4. "Some ants," added Ben, "dig out their homes in dead logs or hollow stems. I know of one little fellow who is clever enough to build a shed. It hunts around to find decayed wood. This it chews into a fine pulp and then spreads it out into a roof; sometimes, it is a good-sized roof. This same ant dearly loves the honeydew which aphids make. So, in order to protect these helpless little green bugs, they build a neat shed over them. When the ants want some honeydew, they crawl up under the little shed and get a drink of this sweet juice. Although a colony of ants live together so peacefully, Jack, they are apt to be very quarrelsome with their neighbors; often, they go to war with another colony if the members of that colony trespass on their grounds."
5. "I found out about some lazy ants, sir," said Jack. "Instead of taking care of their own homes and hunting up their own food, they go out to war against another kind of ant, which is minding its own business. All the grown-up ants these little fighters either kill or frighten away. Then these lazy ants steal the eggs and the babies. Some of them eat on the way home, but most of them carry underground. There they take good care of them until they are grown up. Then these stolen babies become the slaves of the lazy ants. The poor little slaves have never known any other life, so they cheerfully serve their masters, doing everything for them. In fact, so long have these masters had little slaves to wait upon them that they do not know at all how to look out for themselves. They have been known to starve to death rather than to feed themselves."
6. By this time, the children were listening in open-eyed astonishment to Jack, who had absorbed so much of the spirit and the information of the old guide that he could talk almost as interestingly.
7. "And there's a harvester, sir, who builds a big mound around its front door and carefully clears away the grass. Into the long galleries of its home, it carries a great many seeds and stores them away. All the chaff and hard parts which it cannot eat it carries out again."
8. "Well, now," Ben said, "we must decide who has won the prize. Mrs. Reece, what do you think?"
9. Mrs. Reece said, "I think Jack has earned the prize."
10. "And now, children, what do you think?"
11. "Jack!" they all shouted.
12. In a few minutes, the children were about the fire, and there was the smell of roasting corn, the sizzle of broiling partridge tied around with bacon, and the fragrance of coffee for the older people. The firelight seemed particularly jolly. Jack was radiant. They ate and talked and sang about the camp-fire. They thought that Ben the wisest man in the world. They hoped that next year would come soon and wanted to know what stories they were to hear when the long winter was over.
13. In a short time, a line of lanterns was seen swinging and dancing up the hill as the children filed homeward. The summer was over.