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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Real Fairy Folk » CHAPTER XI WISE FRIENDS AND FIERY ONES
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 A was an ant, who seldom stood still,
And who made a nice nest in the side of a hill.
—Edward Lear.
“Sh!” said Ruth to the audience in general, for she wanted very much to hear what the ant had to say. The ant looked at her approvingly, and then said in a very solemn tone:
“My friends, there are ants and ants.”
“Who doesn’t know that?” snapped Mrs. Horntail.
“Yes, there are ants and ants,” repeated the speaker, not noticing the interruption. “There is the carpenter ant, for one. In the books she is called Componotis Pennsylvanicus, but never mind the name. It doesn’t seem to hurt her. She makes her nest in the trunks of trees, old buildings, logs, and places of that kind. You can see her on the leaf by Mrs. Saw Fly. She is large and black and——”
“Clean,” finished the carpenter ant, speaking for herself, and, without asking further permission, she poised1 on her hind2 legs and began to ply3 her tongue, and the fine and coarse combs on her fore4 legs, until she had gone over her whole body, smoothing out ruffled5 hairs, and getting rid of every atom of soil. Her toilet done, she gave a few leisurely6 strokes, then drew her fore legs through her mouth to clean the combs, and stretched herself with an air of satisfaction.
“I hope I haven’t interrupted the proceedings,” she said, “but if I am not clean I am miserable7. Now, Miss Lassius Brunens, please go on.”
“Miss who?” asked the little brown ant. “Oh, I see. You are calling me by the name the wise men give me. Well, I can stand it. To continue: I have mentioned the carpenter ant, and there are also the mound8 builders. Everybody knows their big hills. Then there are ants who keep slaves, and live under stones, and there are honey ants, who live in the South and use the abdomens9 of their own sisters to store honey in, and there are ants who sow seed and harvest it, and ants who cut pieces from green leaves and carry them as parasols, and soldier ants and——”
“Oh, give us a rest!” broke in Mrs. Horntail. “I am tired of ants.”
“Jealous, you mean,” said the little brown ant, “because you are not as wise as we are. Maybe you don’t know that whole books have been written about us and our clever doings. And men have spent years and years trying to study our ways. Now my family may not be the most wonderful, but I think it is the best known. We are the little ants who make the hill with a hole in the middle, which you so often see on sandy paths, or roadsides, or in dry fields.”
Ruth had edged closer, and was listening eagerly. Once more the little ant looked at her approvingly, then went on:
“Some people think our houses are queer, because they are dark. Of course we have no windows, only a door, and that is a hole in the roof. We like it so though, and you might be surprised if you could see our many wonderful galleries and chambers10. We made them all too. Dug them out of the earth, with our feet, throwing the soil out behind us, until the burrow11 grew too deep. Then we had to take it out grain by grain. We made our pillars and supports also, using damp earth for mortar12. We don’t mind work, but we do mind human giants carelessly putting their feet in the middle of our hill and breaking in upon our private life. Those accidents will happen though, and our first thought is always the babies. They have no legs, and we have no hands, so we take them in our jaws13, and speed away with them to our underground chambers, where they will be safe. I have seen human babies carried when they did have legs. There is no excuse for that.
“Another thing, I know better than to call a human baby an egg, but, would you believe me, there are lots of people who think our babies are eggs. I have heard them called so. Now the reason we are so careful of our babies is because if there were no babies there would be no ants, and that brings me to the queen, for without her there would be no babies, because there would be no eggs, and babies always begin by being eggs. Only the queen lays eggs, remember that. She is important for this reason, and no other. She is not our ruler, as some suppose. In fact, we have no ruler. Ants do as they please, but they usually please to do what is best for the whole community. We have many queens, but they are not jealous of each other, as the bee queens are. They do not look like us workers. They are ever so much larger, and were hatched with wings. The males also have wings, but it really matters very little what they have. They are such a weakly set, and after they go abroad with the queens, when they take the one flight of their lives, they usually die, or something eats them, and so they are settled. It is the queens who interest us. Some of them we never see again. They go off somewhere and start new colonies, or something may eat them too, but those that come back either unhook their wings, or we do it for them. Then they settle down and begin to lay eggs. Their egg laying is not after the fashion of bee queens, who go to certain cells and leave eggs in them. The ants drop their eggs as they walk around.”
“Don’t they get lost?” asked Ruth.
“No, indeed. Workers follow and pick 168up every one. They take good care of those precious eggs, too, and when they hatch into helpless grubs, without wings or feet, our work begins in earnest. Every morning we carry them into the sunshine, and bring them down again at night. We fondle them too, and keep them clean by licking them all over. Then of course they must be fed, and, like other babies, they prefer milk.”
“And I know where you get the milk!” cried Ruth, all excitement. “It is from the aphides, isn’t it? The cicada told me. The aphides are his cousins. He doesn’t think so much of them, but he says you do.”
“Well, why shouldn’t we? They give us the most delicious milk. We have a fine herd14 of aphides now pasturing on a stalk of sweetbrier, and when Winter comes we will keep their eggs down in our nest, and put them on the sweetbrier in the Spring, so that the little aphides which hatch from them will have plenty to eat. Yes, and we may even 169build tiny sheds for them to keep their enemies from reaching them.”
“I wonder if you intend to talk all day?” broke in a sharp voice. “I sha’n’t wait another minute.”
It was not Mrs. Horntail, as Ruth thought at first, but Madame Vespa Maculata, or, in plain English, the white-faced hornet, and, as she was a fiery15 lady, no one disputed her when she said:
“I am the largest and most distinguished16 of my family, and I build a nest whose delicacy17 and beauty make it a wonderful piece of insect architecture. It is proper that I should speak first, and I will speak right now.”
“Speak, by all means,” said the little ant. “I have quite finished.”
“Then move,” answered Vespa; “I need space.”
The whole audience gave it to her, including Ruth, who did not edge up close, as she did to the other speakers.
“It is this way,” she whispered to Belinda. “Those sharp people are very interesting, but it is better not to get too near until you know them quite well.”
“I suppose,” Madame Vespa was saying, “I suppose we wasps19 can scarcely be called general favourites. We have a sting, you see, but, my friends, that was intended for laying eggs, and if we use it on people it is because they meddle20 in our business. It is our way. We will sting those who bother us. Now, in our community—for we are social wasps—the female is unquestionably the better half. We have our rights and we insist on them. My mate was a good-for-nothing fellow, like the rest of them. I didn’t marry him until Fall, and he soon left me, and did nothing but perch21 around in the sunshine with others like him, and I had all the hard work of the home. Finally he died. I suppose he couldn’t help that, but I doubt if he would have made an effort anyhow. Well, reproaches are of no use now, for he is very much dead by this time. I have had a whole Winter’s sleep since I saw him last. We queen wasps always sleep in Winter. We are the only ones of the colony who do not die when cold weather comes. You see, our community is not like the bees. It lasts only for a Summer, and each Spring the queens wake up and start a new one. That was what I did. I slept in the crevice22 of a barn and left it full of plans. You can imagine the task before me, but I was plucky23 and soon chose a tree to suit me. My house was made of paper, and I should like to say right here that we wasps are the first paper makers24 in the world, for while Egypt still traced her records in stone, or on the inner bark of the papyrus25, my ancestors were manufacturing paper, that man has finally learned to make in the same way. For paper is only vegetable fibre reduced to a pulp26 and pressed into sheets.”
Ruth’s eyes were wide with astonishment27, and she was edging nearer to Madame Vespa.
“Can you really make paper out of wood?” she asked.
“Of course. See my jaws? They are made to chew wood. Not decayed wood either. That may do for wasps who live under ground, for the brownish paper it makes isn’t strong enough to stand exposure. I choose good wood, and I make fine gray paper.”
“I wish you would tell me how you do it,” begged Ruth.
“Why, I simply gnaw28 the wood with my powerful jaws, and chew it until it is a pulpy29 mass, then I spread it in a sheet, wherever I wish it, and smooth and pat it with my feet. See how flat they are? I have heard of people beginning their houses at the cellar and building up. I consider that perfectly30 ridiculous. I always begin at the top. First, I make a slender stem or support to fasten the nest to the tree. Then I make three or more six-sided cells, which I hang from the support, and lay an egg in each, fastening it in with glue, for the open side of the cell is down. After this I enclose my cells with a wall of paper, and by this time, I am glad to say, my children begin to hatch, and though at first they look like horrid31 little worms, who can’t help themselves at all, I always know they will grow like me soon, and do a great deal of work.
“Feeding them isn’t an easy job, I can tell you, especially when it is added to my other duties, but, after a while, each baby weaves a little silken door over its cell, and goes to sleep. When she wakes she is a wasp18, and the first thing she does is to wash her face and polish her antennæ, nor is it long before she gets to work. My first children are always workers, and after a number of them are hatched I can give my whole time to laying eggs.”
“But when the nest is once done?” began Ruth, who had forgotten her fear entirely32 and was now quite close to Madame Vespa.
“The nest done?” repeated the fiery lady. “You should know that our nest is never done. New cells must be added, old walls gnawed33 down, and fresh ones built up to enclose larger combs. Indeed, we are never idle. We ventilate as the bees do, and we have sentinels too. Later in the season I lay eggs that hatch out drones, and last of all, the queen eggs. They are——”
“Now you would think,” said a yellow jacket, buzzing up excitedly, “you would really think that Vespa might mention the fact that other wasps exist, but not she. Now I want to tell you, the white-faced hornet isn’t the whole thing. There are yellow jackets too.”
“We have eyes,” said Madame Vespa, “but go ahead and talk, and get through, for pity’s sake.”
“Yes, I mean to talk, and I shall get through when I please. We always insist that people shall respect our rights, and they generally do or—something happens. Our nests are quite as remarkable34 as Vespa’s, though we do not hang them from trees, as she is in the habit of doing. Our cousin, Mrs. Polistes, also makes a paper nest, but she builds only a layer of cells, with not a sign of a wall about them. Any one can look right in on her private life.”
“I’m quite willing they should,” spoke35 up Mrs. Polistes, a long, slender brown wasp, with a yellow line around her body. “I could wall up my house if I wished to, but I don’t and I won’t; so there.”
“They all have awful tempers, haven’t they?” said Ruth to Mrs. Horntail.
“Tempers?” repeated that lady. “They are perfect pepper pots, though I must say Mrs. Polistes isn’t usually as bad as the others.”
“I am talking,” called the yellow jacket, “and the rest of the audience will please keep still. As I was saying, though I doubt if you all heard it, there are other members of our family who have not been mentioned yet. We have miners, masons, and carpenters just like the bees. Of course they are solitary36, and——”
“I object!” interrupted Mrs. Muddauber. “I won’t be bunched in with ever so many others. I will speak for myself.”
She was quite graceful37, with a waist as slender as a thread, but she jerked her wings about in such a nervous and fidgety fashion that Mrs. Horntail declared she must have St. Vitus’s dance.
“I haven’t any such thing,” answered Mrs. Muddauber, angrily. “I haven’t any time to dance. I’m nervous, that’s all. Anybody would be nervous with all the work I have to do, and my mate such a lazy fellow that he never thinks of lending me a helping38 mandible in making my home. He says he doesn’t live very long, and wants to enjoy himself while he can. Speaking of houses, I don’t approve of paper ones. I always make mine of mud. I’m a mason, you see. I get one room finished, and lay an egg in it. Then I go to market to get my baby’s dinner.”
“But you haven’t any baby,” objected Mrs. Horntail. “Your egg doesn’t hatch as soon as it is laid, I know that.”
“What of it? The egg will be a baby sometime, and the baby will be hungry. He will not be a vegetarian39 either. He will want meat. Juicy spiders are what he prefers, and he likes them fresh. Now if I should kill them they would be anything but fresh when he is ready to eat them, so I merely sting them until they are quite paralyzed, then I put them in the room with my egg and seal it up. I build a number of cells with an egg and spiders in each, but I am not a jug40 builder. I have no time to fool after such silly affairs as you sometimes see on twigs41 and bushes.”
“She isn’t artistic42 enough, she had better say,” remarked the little jug builder. “My nests are wonderfully pretty. I have heard many people say so. I am very careful to give them a delicate shape. I line them with silk too, but I will not tell you how I make this silk. Even the wise men have not discovered our secret.”
“Disagreeable creature!” remarked Mrs. Horntail; “but then what can you expect from a wasp of any kind? Now who is making that dreadful noise? I shall certainly be a wreck43 before I get away from this place. People who buzz in such a fashion ought certainly to be turned out. But there, what’s the use of asking? I might know it could only be——”
“Sir Bumble Bee at your service.” And a big fellow dressed all in black and gold buzzed up before the angry Mrs. Horntail.


1 poised SlhzBU     
  • The hawk poised in mid-air ready to swoop. 老鹰在半空中盘旋,准备俯冲。
  • Tina was tense, her hand poised over the telephone. 蒂娜心情紧张,手悬在电话机上。
2 hind Cyoya     
  • The animal is able to stand up on its hind limbs.这种动物能够用后肢站立。
  • Don't hind her in her studies.不要在学业上扯她后腿。
3 ply DOqxa     
  • Taxis licensed to ply for hire at the railway station.许可计程车在火车站候客。
  • Ferryboats ply across the English Channel.渡船定期往返于英吉利海峡。
4 fore ri8xw     
  • 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 ruffled e4a3deb720feef0786be7d86b0004e86     
adj. 有褶饰边的, 起皱的 动词ruffle的过去式和过去分词
  • She ruffled his hair affectionately. 她情意绵绵地拨弄着他的头发。
  • All this talk of a strike has clearly ruffled the management's feathers. 所有这些关于罢工的闲言碎语显然让管理层很不高兴。
6 leisurely 51Txb     
  • We walked in a leisurely manner,looking in all the windows.我们慢悠悠地走着,看遍所有的橱窗。
  • He had a leisurely breakfast and drove cheerfully to work.他从容的吃了早餐,高兴的开车去工作。
7 miserable g18yk     
  • It was miserable of you to make fun of him.你取笑他,这是可耻的。
  • Her past life was miserable.她过去的生活很苦。
8 mound unCzhy     
  • The explorers climbed a mound to survey the land around them.勘探者爬上土丘去勘测周围的土地。
  • The mound can be used as our screen.这个土丘可做我们的掩蔽物。
9 abdomens b9e50973be51757dee66d69ffb4312e6     
n.腹(部)( abdomen的名词复数 )
  • The women especially disliked their stomachs or abdomens, hips, thighs and legs. 这些妇女特别不喜欢自己的胃部,腹部,臀部,大腿,腿部。 来自互联网
  • They danced not with their legs or arms, but with their entire bodies, undulating their abdomens. 他们跳舞不是用腿和臂,而是用整个身子,腹部一起一伏地扭动着。 来自互联网
10 chambers c053984cd45eab1984d2c4776373c4fe     
n.房间( chamber的名词复数 );(议会的)议院;卧室;会议厅
  • The body will be removed into one of the cold storage chambers. 尸体将被移到一个冷冻间里。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Mr Chambers's readable book concentrates on the middle passage: the time Ransome spent in Russia. Chambers先生的这本值得一看的书重点在中间:Ransome在俄国的那几年。 来自互联网
11 burrow EsazA     
  • Earthworms burrow deep into the subsoil.蚯蚓深深地钻进底土。
  • The dog had chased a rabbit into its burrow.狗把兔子追进了洞穴。
12 mortar 9EsxR     
  • The mason flushed the joint with mortar.泥工用灰浆把接缝处嵌平。
  • The sound of mortar fire seemed to be closing in.迫击炮的吼声似乎正在逼近。
13 jaws cq9zZq     
  • The antelope could not escape the crocodile's gaping jaws. 那只羚羊无法从鱷鱼张开的大口中逃脱。
  • The scored jaws of a vise help it bite the work. 台钳上有刻痕的虎钳牙帮助它紧咬住工件。
14 herd Pd8zb     
  • 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。
15 fiery ElEye     
  • She has fiery red hair.她有一头火红的头发。
  • His fiery speech agitated the crowd.他热情洋溢的讲话激动了群众。
16 distinguished wu9z3v     
  • Elephants are distinguished from other animals by their long noses.大象以其长长的鼻子显示出与其他动物的不同。
  • A banquet was given in honor of the distinguished guests.宴会是为了向贵宾们致敬而举行的。
17 delicacy mxuxS     
  • We admired the delicacy of the craftsmanship.我们佩服工艺师精巧的手艺。
  • He sensed the delicacy of the situation.他感觉到了形势的微妙。
18 wasp sMczj     
  • A wasp stung me on the arm.黄蜂蜇了我的手臂。
  • Through the glass we can see the wasp.透过玻璃我们可以看到黄蜂。
19 wasps fb5b4ba79c574cee74f48a72a48c03ef     
黄蜂( wasp的名词复数 ); 胡蜂; 易动怒的人; 刻毒的人
  • There's a wasps' nest in that old tree. 那棵老树上有一个黄蜂巢。
  • We live in dread not only of unpleasant insects like spiders or wasps, but of quite harmless ones like moths. 我们不仅生活在对象蜘蛛或黄蜂这样的小虫的惧怕中,而且生活在对诸如飞蛾这样无害昆虫的惧怕中
20 meddle d7Xzb     
  • I hope he doesn't try to meddle in my affairs.我希望他不来干预我的事情。
  • Do not meddle in things that do not concern you.别参与和自己无关的事。
21 perch 5u1yp     
  • The bird took its perch.鸟停歇在栖木上。
  • Little birds perch themselves on the branches.小鸟儿栖歇在树枝上。
22 crevice pokzO     
  • I saw a plant growing out of a crevice in the wall.我看到墙缝里长出一棵草来。
  • He edged the tool into the crevice.他把刀具插进裂缝里。
23 plucky RBOyw     
  • The plucky schoolgirl amazed doctors by hanging on to life for nearly two months.这名勇敢的女生坚持不放弃生命近两个月的精神令医生感到震惊。
  • This story featured a plucky heroine.这个故事描述了一个勇敢的女英雄。
24 makers 22a4efff03ac42c1785d09a48313d352     
  • The makers of the product assured us that there had been no sacrifice of quality. 这一产品的制造商向我们保证说他们没有牺牲质量。
  • The makers are about to launch out a new product. 制造商们马上要生产一种新产品。 来自《简明英汉词典》
25 papyrus hK9xR     
  • The Egyptians wrote on papyrus.埃及人书写用薄草纸。
  • Since papyrus dries up and crumble,very few documents of ancient Egypt have survived.因草片会干裂成粉末所以古埃及的文件很少保存下来。
26 pulp Qt4y9     
  • The pulp of this watermelon is too spongy.这西瓜瓤儿太肉了。
  • The company manufactures pulp and paper products.这个公司制造纸浆和纸产品。
27 astonishment VvjzR     
  • They heard him give a loud shout of astonishment.他们听见他惊奇地大叫一声。
  • I was filled with astonishment at her strange action.我对她的奇怪举动不胜惊异。
28 gnaw E6kyH     
  • Dogs like to gnaw on a bone.狗爱啃骨头。
  • A rat can gnaw a hole through wood.老鼠能啃穿木头。
29 pulpy 0c94b3c743a7f83fc4c966269f8f4b4e     
果肉状的,多汁的,柔软的; 烂糊; 稀烂
  • The bean like seeds of this plant, enclosed within a pulpy fruit. 被包在肉质果实内的这种植物的豆样种子。
  • Her body felt bruised, her lips pulpy and tender. 她的身体感觉碰伤了,她的嘴唇柔软娇嫩。
30 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
31 horrid arozZj     
  • I'm not going to the horrid dinner party.我不打算去参加这次讨厌的宴会。
  • The medicine is horrid and she couldn't get it down.这种药很难吃,她咽不下去。
32 entirely entirely     
  • The fire was entirely caused by their neglect of duty. 那场火灾完全是由于他们失职而引起的。
  • His life was entirely given up to the educational work. 他的一生统统献给了教育工作。
33 gnawed 85643b5b73cc74a08138f4534f41cef1     
咬( gnaw的过去式和过去分词 ); (长时间) 折磨某人; (使)苦恼; (长时间)危害某事物
  • His attitude towards her gnawed away at her confidence. 他对她的态度一直在削弱她的自尊心。
  • The root of this dead tree has been gnawed away by ants. 这棵死树根被蚂蚁唼了。
34 remarkable 8Vbx6     
  • She has made remarkable headway in her writing skills.她在写作技巧方面有了长足进步。
  • These cars are remarkable for the quietness of their engines.这些汽车因发动机没有噪音而不同凡响。
35 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
  • 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。
36 solitary 7FUyx     
  • I am rather fond of a solitary stroll in the country.我颇喜欢在乡间独自徜徉。
  • The castle rises in solitary splendour on the fringe of the desert.这座城堡巍然耸立在沙漠的边际,显得十分壮美。
37 graceful deHza     
  • His movements on the parallel bars were very graceful.他的双杠动作可帅了!
  • The ballet dancer is so graceful.芭蕾舞演员的姿态是如此的优美。
38 helping 2rGzDc     
  • The poor children regularly pony up for a second helping of my hamburger. 那些可怜的孩子们总是要求我把我的汉堡包再给他们一份。
  • By doing this, they may at times be helping to restore competition. 这样一来, 他在某些时候,有助于竞争的加强。
39 vegetarian 7KGzY     
  • She got used gradually to the vegetarian diet.她逐渐习惯吃素食。
  • I didn't realize you were a vegetarian.我不知道你是个素食者。
40 jug QaNzK     
  • He walked along with a jug poised on his head.他头上顶着一个水罐,保持着平衡往前走。
  • She filled the jug with fresh water.她将水壶注满了清水。
41 twigs 17ff1ed5da672aa443a4f6befce8e2cb     
细枝,嫩枝( twig的名词复数 )
  • Some birds build nests of twigs. 一些鸟用树枝筑巢。
  • Willow twigs are pliable. 柳条很软。
42 artistic IeWyG     
  • The picture on this screen is a good artistic work.这屏风上的画是件很好的艺术品。
  • These artistic handicrafts are very popular with foreign friends.外国朋友很喜欢这些美术工艺品。
43 wreck QMjzE     
  • Weather may have been a factor in the wreck.天气可能是造成这次失事的原因之一。
  • No one can wreck the friendship between us.没有人能够破坏我们之间的友谊。


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