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CHAPTER V RUTH HEARS ABOUT SOME WATER BABIES
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 An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk, from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire1 mail.
—Tennyson.
Ruth lay in the grass, under the old willow2 tree, watching a dainty little creature with a pale green body and four gauzy wings flashing with all the tints3 of the rainbow.
 
“What a beautiful dragon fly,” she said, half under her breath. “I never saw one so lovely before. I wonder if it is a dragon fly. Do you think it is, Belinda?”
 
“I am not a dragon fly,” came in answer from the dainty creature herself. “I’m a lacewing. Why don’t you use your eyes? It’s about time you learned something.”
 
“I do want to learn,” said Ruth meekly5. “I am trying all the time. I wish you would tell me things. I thought you were prettier than most dragon flies.”
 
Mrs. Lacewing looked pleased. “Now you show your taste,” she said, “and I am quite willing to help you. Just wait a little while, and see what happens. Then if you don’t like it, well——” And without waiting to say more, or to let Ruth thank her, she was off.
 
“I think she means to come back,” said Ruth, expecting, she scarcely knew what, “and it will be nice, I am sure. Oh, Belinda, isn’t it just like living in Fairyland, since we can hear what they talk about? There! what did I tell you! It is Fairyland.”
 
Ruth added this with a rapturous little squeeze, for just then she saw the lacewing flying toward her, and with her many other beautiful winged creatures.
 
“The order Neuroptera, or the nerve wings,” said the lacewing, flitting close to Ruth, “that is some of them.” Then she introduced Ruth as a friend, adding in a self-satisfied tone: “She thinks I’m beautiful, and I quite agree with her, don’t you?”
 
Apparently6 the audience did. Of course she was beautiful, and, besides, she carried a scent7 bag which was not at all pleasant, and they knew they were likely to have the full benefit of it if they contradicted or displeased8 her.
 
“Now we’ll begin,” she went on, with the air of one who had settled all difficulties, but the next second she stopped, and, looking at a group of caddice flies, she asked sternly:
 
“Why are you here? and bless my wings, if there aren’t dragon flies, and stone flies, and, who would believe it, May flies. Now you know that not one of you belongs to our order.”
 
“Well, we belonged to it once,” answered a caddice fly, speaking for all.
 
67“But I don’t understand,” began Ruth.
 
“Then don’t say anything,” put in a dragon fly, darting10 before her. “Keep quiet and listen, and you’ll learn things. Besides, it is very rude to interrupt people.”
 
Ruth felt snubbed, and tried to turn her back on the dragon fly, but, as he seemed to be everywhere at once, she found it impossible.
 
The caddice fly was still speaking. “We can’t always remember,” she said, “and I should like to know what right the wise men have to take us out of one order and put us in a sub-order.”
 
“Right is the last thing they think about,” spoke11 up a stone fly, “but I really care very little whether I’m called Neuroptera, as I was once, or Plecoptera, as I am now. Life is just as uncertain and full of accidents. Why, my friends, it is the greatest wonder I lived to grow up.” She sighed and began to fan her long, fat body with her broad fore4 wings.
 
“You know I was once a water baby.”
 
68“Water baby?” repeated Ruth. “Wouldn’t your wings——”
 
“No they wouldn’t,” said Mrs. Stone Fly, “because I hadn’t any wings then. I was homely12, flat, six-legged, and just the colour of the stone under which I spent most of my young life, hiding. I had to hide, or the boys would have found me and used me for bait. Think of it! Bait!”
 
And Mrs. Stone Fly, quite overcome, could say no more.
 
“We came to make a few remarks,” said one of a swarm13 of May flies that had been hovering14 about, “but we must go now. Life is too short for talking.”
 
“Poor things,” said Mrs. Lacewing, “life with them is indeed short. No wonder they are called Ephemerida. Think of living only for a day!”
 
“But they lived a long time as Nymphs,” said the dragon fly, who was still darting about, now here, now there, like a flash of living flame. “I know, because they were water babies like me. They could eat too, then, and the number of times they changed their skins was a caution. Why, my friends, they even change them after they leave the water and have their wings. No other insect does that.”
 
“Now, my story, in the beginning, is something like theirs. I, too, was born in the bottom of the pond and, no doubt, I played with some of you, or I may have tried to make a meal of you. Well, if I did I failed, and I shouldn’t be blamed for the sins of my youth. All of us eat when we can get the chance, and there’s no use in being sorry for the dinner. I suppose you would like to hear how I managed to get into the pond?” He looked at Ruth, who nodded her head, though she was still laughing at the idea of being sorry for a dinner.
 
“You see,” explained Mrs. Lacewing, “the dinner might be your nearest relation.”
 
“Just so,” agreed the dragon fly. “Now my mother, for of course I had a mother, 70though like most pond people I never knew her——”
 
“Do get to the point,” said an ant lion impatiently; “we are all growing old.”
 
“Well, the point is my mother,” answered the dragon fly, undisturbed, “but first I should say that I no longer belong to the order Neuroptera, but to the sub-order Ordonata. It means something about a tooth, but if I have any teeth, I don’t know it. Now to get back to the point: my mother flew down to the water one day, and when she left it there was a cluster of small yellow eggs floating on the surface. I came from one of those eggs, and I didn’t look like a dragon fly, I can tell you. I had six tiny spider-like legs, but not a sign of wings, and when I breathed it was not as I do now, like all perfect insects, through openings on each side of my body. I had gills, and a tube at the end of my body brought fresh water to them. This tube was a funny affair. It really helped me along, for when I spurted15 water through it I was pushed forward. Then I had a wonderful mouth, with a long under lip, that I could dart9 out and catch anything within reach, while I did not need to move my body at all.”
 
“Just like frogs and toads16!” cried Ruth.
 
“Not at all,” answered the dragon fly. “They only send out their tongues. I send out my whole under lip. If you could only keep quiet you would not show your ignorance so plainly.”
 
Once more Ruth was snubbed, and the dragon fly continued:
 
“In time I became a pupa.”
 
Ruth looked the question she dared not ask.
 
“I’ll explain,” said the dragon fly, amiably17. “Larva—that’s what I was at first—means mask, or something that hides you. You will find out in time, if you do not know now, that the larva of an insect is really a mask which hides its true form. The plural18 of the word is larvæ. Now pupa, plural pupæ, means baby. It is usually the state 72of sleep in which the larva lies after spinning its cocoon19 or cradle, but in my case it didn’t suit at all. Dragon flies, far from sleeping in the pupa state, seem to grow more active, and their appetites are larger. Indeed, I will say right here, everything that came my way, and was not too big, went into my mouth. In fact, I finally reached my limit and burst.”
 
“Gracious!” cried Ruth in a shocked tone. “How did you get yourself together again?”
 
“Well, you see, the whole of me didn’t burst. I simply grew too big for my skin, or my pupa case, as the wise men call it, and it cracked right open. I was climbing on a water plant when this happened, for all at once I had felt a longing20 to leave the water and get to the open air. My first effort was to get rid of the useless old shell which still clung to me, but I had quite a tussle21 before I could do so, and afterward22 I was very weak and tired. But the result was worth all my labour, for I found myself with these four wings, and the rest of my beautiful body, and I needed only to dry myself before sailing away on the wind, the swiftest thing on wings, and the most renowned23 mosquito killer24 on record. Of course, my legs aren’t arranged for walking. Why should they be? All six of them go forward, as if they were reaching for something, and so they are, reaching for something to eat. Woe25 betide any insect I start after. I catch him every time. I ought to, for I have thousands of eyes, and I can fly forward, backward, or any old way. I never stop to eat my dinner either. I hold it, and eat it as I go. Now if I had time, I would tell you how the children of Japan make a holiday, and go out to catch us for pets, and how they sing pretty songs to us and——”
 
“It is about time you stopped,” interrupted Mrs. Ant Lion. “You have tried our patience long enough, and I mean to speak this very minute. I’ve been told I am much like the dragon flies,” she added to the company, “but my babies are not at all like theirs. They do not belong to the water, and I am glad of it. I’m tired of water babies. I’ve heard so much of them to-day. My mother had the good sense to lay her eggs in sand, and I shall do the same. I was hungry from the minute I was hatched, and I would have run after something to eat right away, only I found I couldn’t. My legs were fixed26 in such a way I had to walk backward.”
 
“Backward?” echoed Ruth.
 
“Yes, backward. So there was nothing to do but to dig a trap for my dinner, and I set about it pretty quick. No one showed me how, either. I simply used my shovel-shaped head, and before long I had made quite a pit, broad and rounded at the top, and sloping to a point like a funnel27 at the bottom. You have seen them, of course?”
 
“I think I have,” answered Ruth.
 
“They are not hard to find if you keep your eyes open,” went on the ant lion.
 
75“Well, as I said, I made one of these pits, and in the funnel end I lay in wait for ants. Soon one came along, slipped over the edge, as I expected, and tumbled right into my open mouth. Nor was she the only one. Some were strong enough to turn, even while they were slipping, and start to crawl up again, but I just heaped some sand on my head and threw it at them, and down they would come. My aim was always good, so were the ants, though I only sucked their juice. Of course I did not leave their skins around to frighten away other ants. I piled them on my head, and gave them a toss, which sent them some distance away. After a time I stopped eating, and made a cocoon. Then I went to sleep!—for many days—during which I changed wonderfully, as any one must know who has seen ant lion babies and now sees me. This is all of my story, and I suppose we will hear about another tiresome28 water baby.”
 
“You shall hear about a water baby,” replied Mrs. Caddice Fly, waving her antennæ by way of salute29, “but tiresome will do for your own homely children. I will begin by saying that, with the accidents of life, it is a wonder that any of us are here. When we caddice flies were hatched we were soft, white, six-footed babies. We were called worms, though we were not worms. Think of it! Soft bodied, with not very strong legs, white, and living at the bottom of the pond. Could anything be worse? No wonder we seemed to do nothing at first but try to get away from things that wanted to eat us. I tell you, pond life is most exciting. After a while the front part of our bodies and our heads began to turn brown, and, as the rest of us was white, and seemed likely to stay so, we all decided30 to make a case or house to cover our white part. So we set to work and of bits of sticks, tiny stones, and broken shells, glued together with silk from our own bodies, we made these cases. True, many of us went down the throat of Belostoma, the giant water bug31, before we had finished, but those of us who didn’t crawled into our little houses, locking ourselves in by two strong hooks which grew at the end of our bodies. We could move about, but of course we carried our houses with us and——”
 
“How ridiculous!” said Mrs. Ant Lion. “Why didn’t you stay still?”
 
“Because we didn’t wish to,” answered 78the caddice fly. “We had to eat, and we had to get away from those who wished to eat us. At last we went to sleep, after first spinning a veil of silk over our front and back doors. I can’t answer for the others, but when I awoke I tore open my silken door, threw aside my pupa skin, and found I had wings. Since then I have had a new life, but even that has its enemies, and one never knows what will happen.”
 
With which doleful saying Mrs. Caddice Fly sailed away to the pond to lay some eggs among the water plants.
 
“Dear me,” said Mrs. Lacewing, “we seem to need something cheerful after that. I am glad I never lived in the water, if it makes one so blue. Now I shall tell you what my babies will do, not what I have done. Of course it is the same thing, but it is looking forward rather than to the past. After this meeting is over I shall lay some eggs, on just what plant I haven’t yet decided, but it will be in the midst of a herd32 of aphides. Be sure of that. Aphides are plant lice,” she explained, seeing the question in Ruth’s eyes. “You will learn more of them later. Now as to the way I shall lay my eggs: First, from the tip of my body I shall drop a thick gummy fluid, and draw it out into a long, stiff, upright thread, and upon the end of this thread I shall fasten an egg. I shall lay a number of eggs in this way, each on its own pole, so to speak. Some people may think my way odd, but it is very wise. A lacewing knows her children. They are not beautiful. Such short-legged, spindle-shaped things couldn’t be pretty, but they are sturdy, and they have an endless appetite.”
 
“I should think they would feel lonely on those ridiculous poles,” said Mrs. Ant Lion.
 
“Not at all. They are not there long enough to feel lonely. They are in too great a hurry for dinner. They are hungry, with a big H. Now just suppose I should lay my eggs as the rest of you do, ever so many together, what do you think would happen? I will tell you in a few words. The dear child who came out first would eat all his unhatched brothers and sisters. He doesn’t, only because he can’t reach them.”
 
“It’s a wonder he doesn’t eat his pole,” said Ruth, her face showing what she thought of such babies.
 
“Yes, it is,” agreed Mrs. Lacewing, “but, strange to say, he doesn’t seem to care for it. Indeed, he leaves it as quickly as he can, and goes hunting. Of course he needn’t hunt far, for he is in the midst of aphides. Every mother looks out for that, and really it is quite a pleasure to see him suck the juice from aphid after aphid, holding each one high in the air in his own funny way. So you can see why lacewing babies are friends to the farmer and the fruit grower, for aphides kill plants and trees, and young lacewings kill aphides. They can eat and eat and eat, and never grow tired of aphides. Indeed, they really deserve their name—aphislion. 81When they do stop eating it is to fall into their long sleep, but first they weave a cocoon as beautiful as a seed pearl, in which they change into a most lovely creature—one like me. Now our meeting is adjourned33, and I hope a certain person has learned a few things.”
 
“Oh, ever and ever so many, thank you,” answered Ruth gratefully.

点击收听单词发音收听单词发音  

1 sapphire ETFzw     
n.青玉,蓝宝石;adj.天蓝色的
参考例句:
  • Now let us consider crystals such as diamond or sapphire.现在让我们考虑象钻石和蓝宝石这样的晶体。
  • He left a sapphire ring to her.他留给她一枚蓝宝石戒指。
2 willow bMFz6     
n.柳树
参考例句:
  • The river was sparsely lined with willow trees.河边疏疏落落有几棵柳树。
  • The willow's shadow falls on the lake.垂柳的影子倒映在湖面上。
3 tints 41fd51b51cf127789864a36f50ef24bf     
色彩( tint的名词复数 ); 带白的颜色; (淡色)染发剂; 痕迹
参考例句:
  • leaves with red and gold autumn tints 金秋时节略呈红黄色的树叶
  • The whole countryside glowed with autumn tints. 乡间处处呈现出灿烂的秋色。
4 fore ri8xw     
adv.在前面;adj.先前的;在前部的;n.前部
参考例句:
  • Your seat is in the fore part of the aircraft.你的座位在飞机的前部。
  • I have the gift of fore knowledge.我能够未卜先知。
5 meekly meekly     
adv.温顺地,逆来顺受地
参考例句:
  • He stood aside meekly when the new policy was proposed. 当有人提出新政策时,他唯唯诺诺地站 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • He meekly accepted the rebuke. 他顺从地接受了批评。 来自《简明英汉词典》
6 apparently tMmyQ     
adv.显然地;表面上,似乎
参考例句:
  • An apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space.山穷水尽,豁然开朗。
  • He was apparently much surprised at the news.他对那个消息显然感到十分惊异。
7 scent WThzs     
n.气味,香味,香水,线索,嗅觉;v.嗅,发觉
参考例句:
  • The air was filled with the scent of lilac.空气中弥漫着丁香花的芬芳。
  • The flowers give off a heady scent at night.这些花晚上散发出醉人的芳香。
8 displeased 1uFz5L     
a.不快的
参考例句:
  • The old man was displeased and darted an angry look at me. 老人不高兴了,瞪了我一眼。
  • He was displeased about the whole affair. 他对整个事情感到很不高兴。
9 dart oydxK     
v.猛冲,投掷;n.飞镖,猛冲
参考例句:
  • The child made a sudden dart across the road.那小孩突然冲过马路。
  • Markov died after being struck by a poison dart.马尔科夫身中毒镖而亡。
10 darting darting     
v.投掷,投射( dart的现在分词 );向前冲,飞奔
参考例句:
  • Swallows were darting through the clouds. 燕子穿云急飞。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • Swallows were darting through the air. 燕子在空中掠过。 来自辞典例句
11 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
参考例句:
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
12 homely Ecdxo     
adj.家常的,简朴的;不漂亮的
参考例句:
  • We had a homely meal of bread and cheese.我们吃了一顿面包加乳酪的家常便餐。
  • Come and have a homely meal with us,will you?来和我们一起吃顿家常便饭,好吗?
13 swarm dqlyj     
n.(昆虫)等一大群;vi.成群飞舞;蜂拥而入
参考例句:
  • There is a swarm of bees in the tree.这树上有一窝蜜蜂。
  • A swarm of ants are moving busily.一群蚂蚁正在忙碌地搬家。
14 hovering 99fdb695db3c202536060470c79b067f     
鸟( hover的现在分词 ); 靠近(某事物); (人)徘徊; 犹豫
参考例句:
  • The helicopter was hovering about 100 metres above the pad. 直升机在离发射台一百米的上空盘旋。
  • I'm hovering between the concert and the play tonight. 我犹豫不决今晚是听音乐会还是看戏。
15 spurted bdaf82c28db295715c49389b8ce69a92     
(液体,火焰等)喷出,(使)涌出( spurt的过去式和过去分词 ); (短暂地)加速前进,冲刺
参考例句:
  • Water spurted out of the hole. 水从小孔中喷出来。
  • Their guns spurted fire. 他们的枪喷射出火焰。
16 toads 848d4ebf1875eac88fe0765c59ce57d1     
n.蟾蜍,癞蛤蟆( toad的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • All toads blink when they swallow. 所有的癞蛤蟆吞食东西时都会眨眼皮。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Toads have shorter legs and are generally more clumsy than frogs. 蟾蜍比青蛙脚短,一般说来没有青蛙灵活。 来自辞典例句
17 amiably amiably     
adv.和蔼可亲地,亲切地
参考例句:
  • She grinned amiably at us. 她咧着嘴向我们亲切地微笑。
  • Atheists and theists live together peacefully and amiably in this country. 无神论者和有神论者在该国和睦相处。 来自《简明英汉词典》
18 plural c2WzP     
n.复数;复数形式;adj.复数的
参考例句:
  • Most plural nouns in English end in's '.英语的复数名词多以s结尾。
  • Here you should use plural pronoun.这里你应该用复数代词。
19 cocoon 2nQyB     
n.茧
参考例句:
  • A cocoon is a kind of silk covering made by an insect.蚕茧是由昆虫制造的一种由丝组成的外包层。
  • The beautiful butterfly emerged from the cocoon.美丽的蝴蝶自茧中出现。
20 longing 98bzd     
n.(for)渴望
参考例句:
  • Hearing the tune again sent waves of longing through her.再次听到那首曲子使她胸中充满了渴望。
  • His heart burned with longing for revenge.他心中燃烧着急欲复仇的怒火。
21 tussle DgcyB     
n.&v.扭打,搏斗,争辩
参考例句:
  • They began to tussle with each other for the handgun.他们互相扭打起来,抢夺那支手枪。
  • We are engaged in a legal tussle with a large pharmaceutical company.我们正同一家大制药公司闹法律纠纷。
22 afterward fK6y3     
adv.后来;以后
参考例句:
  • Let's go to the theatre first and eat afterward. 让我们先去看戏,然后吃饭。
  • Afterward,the boy became a very famous artist.后来,这男孩成为一个很有名的艺术家。
23 renowned okSzVe     
adj.著名的,有名望的,声誉鹊起的
参考例句:
  • He is one of the world's renowned writers.他是世界上知名的作家之一。
  • She is renowned for her advocacy of human rights.她以提倡人权而闻名。
24 killer rpLziK     
n.杀人者,杀人犯,杀手,屠杀者
参考例句:
  • Heart attacks have become Britain's No.1 killer disease.心脏病已成为英国的头号致命疾病。
  • The bulk of the evidence points to him as her killer.大量证据证明是他杀死她的。
25 woe OfGyu     
n.悲哀,苦痛,不幸,困难;int.用来表达悲伤或惊慌
参考例句:
  • Our two peoples are brothers sharing weal and woe.我们两国人民是患难与共的兄弟。
  • A man is well or woe as he thinks himself so.自认祸是祸,自认福是福。
26 fixed JsKzzj     
adj.固定的,不变的,准备好的;(计算机)固定的
参考例句:
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。
27 funnel xhgx4     
n.漏斗;烟囱;v.汇集
参考例句:
  • He poured the petrol into the car through a funnel.他用一个漏斗把汽油灌入汽车。
  • I like the ship with a yellow funnel.我喜欢那条有黄烟囱的船。
28 tiresome Kgty9     
adj.令人疲劳的,令人厌倦的
参考例句:
  • His doubts and hesitations were tiresome.他的疑惑和犹豫令人厌烦。
  • He was tiresome in contending for the value of his own labors.他老为他自己劳动的价值而争强斗胜,令人生厌。
29 salute rYzx4     
vi.行礼,致意,问候,放礼炮;vt.向…致意,迎接,赞扬;n.招呼,敬礼,礼炮
参考例句:
  • Merchant ships salute each other by dipping the flag.商船互相点旗致敬。
  • The Japanese women salute the people with formal bows in welcome.这些日本妇女以正式的鞠躬向人们施礼以示欢迎。
30 decided lvqzZd     
adj.决定了的,坚决的;明显的,明确的
参考例句:
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
31 bug 5skzf     
n.虫子;故障;窃听器;vt.纠缠;装窃听器
参考例句:
  • There is a bug in the system.系统出了故障。
  • The bird caught a bug on the fly.那鸟在飞行中捉住了一只昆虫。
32 herd Pd8zb     
n.兽群,牧群;vt.使集中,把…赶在一起
参考例句:
  • She drove the herd of cattle through the wilderness.她赶着牛群穿过荒野。
  • He had no opinions of his own but simply follow the herd.他从无主见,只是人云亦云。
33 adjourned 1e5a5e61da11d317191a820abad1664d     
(使)休会, (使)休庭( adjourn的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • The court adjourned for lunch. 午餐时间法庭休庭。
  • The trial was adjourned following the presentation of new evidence to the court. 新证据呈到庭上后,审讯就宣告暂停。


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