« ZurückWeiter »
And Darwin himself has noted the visits of bees to flowers which have lost their petals. Here, again, is a flower of white clematis of which snails have eaten the greater part of the petals. Yet it receives as many bee visits as the perfect flowers on the same plant. There, again, is a flower in that bed of harpaliums of which a caterpillar has neatly eaten off the ray florets. Nevertheless, there is a bee on it gathering nectar, although there are scores of perfect flowers around it! Such are the strange ways of the bee, which in the imagination of certain theorists selects the most showy flowers for its visits!
With Aristotle's bee, constant in its The Nineteenth Century and After.
THE JOINT IN THE HARNESS.
The bridge, slowly creeping forward behind its noisy head, was not the only spot where progress had been made that day. The same sun that dissipated the clinging mist from the river and revealed the bridgers at work, lit up another scene of toil in a village some thirty-five miles away,of toil less imposing, but no less important in its results. The little deserted village, the "Hornet's nest," was the lair of one section of the raiders. Nestling on one side of a low hill, hidden by others slightly higher all round, the spot was well chosen for its purpose. On each side of the principal street straggled houses, once white but now roofless and blackened. From a cow-byre at one end there issued the sound of hammering, and now and then the hum of a motor engine, driven for short bursts at high speed, rose to a whine. Tarpaulins clumsily stretched on charred rafters and weighted with LIVING AGE. VOL. XXXIV. 1792
visits, and Lord Avebury's bee, preferring blue, you may, theoretically, produce a blue flower. You put your penny of faith in the slot, and it is evolved while you wait. With the bee of nature, the real visitor of the flowers, this is impossible.
If it be true that:
"Tis distance lends enchantment to the view
And robes the mountain in its azure hue,
it would also appear that it is remoteness from actual fact which has enabled the theorists to crown the bee with an azure halo and make it the evolver of the blue flower.
G. W. Bulman.
stones formed the roof of the shed. Never a savory spot, an odor as of a motor garage now hung about the place, its pungency unpleasingly intensified by the smell of some extinguished acetylene lanterns, for here also they had been working through the night. Men kept passing in and out of the shed,-they were erecting machinery out in the yard.
In a room of the village inn, still the best house in the place, four officers had just finished a hasty meal and were pushing back their ammunitionbox seats from the packing-case table. One of this group was noticeable: very pale,-he carried his arm in a sling and had been eating clumsily with his left hand. Another was almost as conspicuous: a wiry man, with a freckled face and red hair, he wore a hybrid naval uniform. Upon his yachting cap shone a metal badge representing some insect. The third, the Commandant of the section of raiders, was
big and bull-necked, and the sly expression in his protuberant eyes made him look like a cunning frog-if such a thing can be imagined. All these were youngish men, but the fourth was the youngest.
He had nothing to distin
guish him but his pink cheeks and a bread-and-butter face; he was attached to the nautical man only, and did not wear his uniform.
“We can't spread this map in here," said the senior, in a guttural voice, lighting his pipe; "let's go into the next room, or, better, into the tap-room, where there's a bar." Following him, they separated on each side of the long counter, the pewter top of which was thick with dust, pieces of plaster, and broken glass. It was a moment's work to sweep this off to add to the wreckage already inches deep on the floor. The little run, where some buxom "patronne" or "Miss" had formerly reigned, was more than ankle-deep in broken glass and crockery; the shelves behind were bare of their former array of bottles. Behind the shelves, the sharp edges of the slivers of a dusty mirror, radiating outwards from one or two points, caught the light in a prismatic sparkle, and gave the one touch of brightness to the brutal squalor of the room. Even the smell of dust and plaster had not altogether exorcised the established reek of stale tobacco-smoke and spilt liquor which still hung about. "Anyway, I am greatly relieved that you have come," said the last speaker. "I heard you were on your way, but many expected things do not arrive these days, and I was not too hopeful. And though I must confess that I am even now a bit sceptical about your box of tricks, I am only too keen to try. Have you unpacked your what do you call them-squadron, fleet, covey, swarm?"
"Yes, sir," somewhat stiffly answered the man in the nautical suit. "They've all been unpacked, and my men are
rigging them up in a shed we found. I have twelve-the Gadfly, Wasp, Bee, Mosquito, Tsetse, Ichneum——”
"Steady, steady-I haven't time to listen to the whole entomological dictionary. How many will be ready for this evening-for business, I mean?" "All-I hope."
"Are your anarchists, engineers, chauffeurs, or skippers prepared to proceed on individual forlorn hopes? Mind you, those who do not blow themselves up, or get smashed by a fall, or taken prisoner, will almost certainly get shot as spies, and it's odds that 'good-bye' at starting will be good-bye for ever."
"We quite realize all that, sir, and we'll take our chance. "Tis a forlorn hope in a way; but the prizes are large. Why, just think, given a chance"
"Yes, yes, I know. I see you are a cran-I mean, an enthusiast, and quite rightly. Well, I'm going to give you a bellyful of chances!" The other smiled.
"Now, listen. As you are a newcomer, I'll put you in touch with the position in a few words. Never mind if I tell you something you know already, don't interrupt-listen. square D 14? That's where their third army is, some seventy thousand strong. They're in a good position, at a strategic point, and are holding some villages, the names don't matter. They've been there five days. Our Western force, which is not strong enough to attack, has been hanging on to and harassing them; we cannot make a grand attack, yet we hope to scatter their army and bag much of it. It has marched a long way, fought a lot, and lost nearly all its transport, and—this is the point-it must be starving, quite played out and very short of ammunition, and it has only got one line of rail communication, which is cut! The railway's back along here-see?" The other nodded. "Of course we cut this line when we retired. In fact, I believe,
though I'm not entirely in the confidence of the 'Generalissimo,' that he wished the enemy to advance here. Naturally they have been doing their best to reopen communication, and, being splendid engineers, have done a lot; but so far they have not succeeded, for no trains have gone up, and only a small wagon convoy or two-a mere trifle. The country all round for miles is a desert as far as supplies gɔ, we saw to that, and they must be in a very bad way. We know from spies that they have been for days on reduced rations and have many sick, and their guns are not so busy as they were. My duty, like that of the other raiding parties, for the last five days has been to prevent communication being re-established on the railway. We've cut the line and telegraph -their wireless is not working, for we cap tured all their gear-till we are sick. The bridges are very strongly guarded, and all the petty damage we can do is repaired almost at once, for unluckily it is a double line, and they repair one pair of rails from the other. Altogether, our efforts are futile. Now, I don't believe in your new machines flying about vaguely and killing a few wretched men here and there by a bomb, and I think the chief must agree, as he has sent you here. I believe in attacking some sore spot, and going back to it again and again. The one place where they are vulnerable is at the big broken bridge here, one hundred and thirty odd miles from the army. They're working like devils to repair the break, or rather to cross the river by a temporary bridge first, and they are doing it much too quick. They may be through in a day or two, and if so their army is saved; but if we can delay the repair for three or four days even, I think it is lost! They know all this, and they've made a Port Arthur of the bridge-head, and got a large garrison there. We've tried in
vain to get near it, but the whole place is surrounded by outposts, barbed wire, and all that, and they have lit up the bridge till it looks like a gin palace. My engineer officer, who blew up the bridge originally, spent some hours the night before last watching them from a hill, and, thanks to their lighting, saw a lot. He had three men carrying dynamite with him: one blew himself up, two were captured, and he himself was wounded in the arm. Nothing that walks can get near the bridge. But that's the place to attack-that's their sore spot, and here you areO Beelzebub, Prince of Flies, with your horde! Your duty will be, so long as a single insect remains, to fly to that spot every night and bite or settle or sting, or do what you will to delay the work. Remember, if the bridge is delayed for three days I expect the third army will fall into our mouths like a ripe plum. No food, no ammunition, no horses, they cannot retreat far. Now you have the position."
"Hold on; there is one thing more, and then you will have all my ideas. The aërial attack will be made to-night. Now, how about the news of this reaching the other forces of the enemy?"
"Oh, that seems simple," interposed the youth. "I suppose you'll have every wire cut, and kept cut, so that not a whisper-"
"Not so fast, young fellow. I see you are not yet a psychologist, and do not appreciate the moral factor in war," he answered, quite pleased at catching the youngster. "The attack takes place to-night, and, whether it succeeds
or not, it will certainly cause consterna- we shall be able to drop three bombs tion and alarm at the bridge. I want out of four on to a patch a little bigger that consternation and alarm to than this room. If the wind rises it be transmitted to the starving army. is more difficult, because we have to I want the news of the blasting turn up wind to hover, and the balancof their Lopes, or even of the ing is not so easy.
You see we bave to mysterious attack, exaggerated by hover anyway to aim, and that's the fancy and ignorance of its exact na- difficulty. That's what the secret gear ture, to be the last message they re- and auxiliary-lifting propeller are forceive. Therefore, from daylight till the thing you called the little 'whingten to-morrow morning their wires whang,' I mean." will not be interfered with; but after "Quite. Now I know what sort of that they will be cut, and kept cut, thing you can do, and this, I think, is without chance of repair, and we'll the scheme. You see, their rate of stop all messengers, so that after this work must absolutely depend on their there will be mysterious silence. That pile-driver; if that is destroyed they will give time for the news to rankle, will have to drive by hand, which will for rumors to breed, and for the take-oh-five or six times as long. doonied army to exercise its power of Therefore, that's the sorest point in the imagination: the silence will assist. sore spot. They're working night and To men in their position a word of dis- day, partly by the aid of their electric couragement is worth an army corps to light; if that's destroyed it will hamper us. Afterwards, if any machines are them, but will not make them take left unexpended, we might further as- even twice as long, because they have sist their hunger-bred fantasies by fly- enough flares to carry on the low-level ing over them and dropping a bomb or bridge. That's the second sorest point. two, or even by flying over them and Agree?" “Beelzebub" nodded. "As showing a light. That's all, now. I'll they're so deuced near finishing, we leave you to arrange details. You must try and make a dead cert. of stopcome along and show what your box ping them to-night, as, once their of tricks is like." With that he went bridge is done, we cannot really damout, followed by the youngest officer, age it with these little bombs. There who stopped, put his head in at the fore I think you should sail out with door, and said, in a whisper of deep all yourfleet, and do your devilmost admiration, “Perfect devil, ain't he?” to-night."
Then followed a long confabulation “Yes; that's sound. I quite agree." between the two engineers over the "Take on the pile-driver first, and if large-scale plan of the bridge, which you get that, or burst the boiler. showed the information gained the pre- switch off on to the dynamo-house. vious evening.
That will be a much easier target. It's “How many, and what size bombs do bigger; ind if you get only one bomb you carry?" said the man with the to burst inside, even without hitting wounded arm.
anything, it will probably wreck the “One each; eight pounds of stuff.” show, for one splinter in the moving
"Well, that's not much good unless parts of the engine or dynamo revolr. you get a detonation alongside some ing at high speed will cause the whole vital spot. It won't do the structure thing to fly to bits. Two fair shots of either bridge itself much harm. Can should do the trick. Can you count on you drop accurately?"
two bull's-eyes out of twelve shots ?" “If the night is as calm as it is now, "I think so, if there is no wind. Can't we set anything alight? I'm curious-looking erections drawn up bestocking a splendid line in incendiary bind the cow-shed increased. Each bombs, pretty things of petrol and cel- was supported by a sort of dwarf biluloid, that look like capsules.”
cycle and tied down. They were skele"Nothing. I don't know where their tons, with great flat awnings of memammunition is, though they must have branous material and queer shape tons there. Hold on,-yes, I saw some stretched taut on light frames stayed mountains of stuff, just here; mark it
with wire. In their spidery appearance on the map, will you? That is prob- they had a remote semblance to reapably forage. After you have done all ing-machines. This semblance was you can, and expended all your explo- borne out by the gaudy fancy of the sive, sail along and drop a few capsules artist who had painted them, for he on to these mounds and over the yard. had run amuck with his vermilion and You may set something alight with blue in a manner usually confined to any luck. By the way, can you signal agricultural machines or toy locomoto each other?”
tives. All the metal was painted, and "Yes-we carry colored lights and lit- there was no such bright brass or burtle lamps in our tails. How about find- nished steel about the machinery as ing our way?"
might have been expected. Each car"I was thinking of that.
ried a small silk national flag at one get over the hills about eight miles end, and had its name painted on. away from the bridge, you can see the
"Good heavens! what gingerbreadglare of it in the sky, and you can looking things!" had been the somesteer straight for it. To assist you be- what uncomplimentary remark of the fore you can see this glare, we'll send officer commanding raiders, when he out a dozen men who will have lights first saw them rigged up. on poles, shaded so as to shine up- “Shades of Icarus, Lilienthal, Pilcher, wards. Will that do?"
and all others! What d'you expect ?" “Excellent. And about a place for retorted the pseudo-naval man, somelanding, in case any of us come back,
what nettled. “D'you want tractionthat's the great difficulty. Have you
engines or the winged bulls of Assura pond near here?”
bani-pal?” “Yes, about half a mile away. I'll It took the foxy one at least five mintake you to it later."
utes to suooth matters over, and he "That will do. You must put lamps had to suffer a long technical lecture to mark the pond, in case it is still before he succeeded. dark when we get back, and, if it is deep, have a man with a raft of sorts to haul us out.”
An hour and a half before the moon “Right.”
went down, the first fly made a start "Beelzebub" went out to coach his
down the sloping road. She was the men in the details and finish off the
“flagship," manned by the "admiral.” ilies. As the other sat still musing, he
He was seated in his machine, held up thought of the feelings of those whose by four men. work was going to be so suddenly de
"All aboard ?" he said. "All clear, stroyed, and he had a fellow-feeling of
you?" sympathy for them.
“Ay, ay, sir."
With that the assistants gave the maAs the day passed the number of chine a running shove forward, the