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many imagine. The effects which they produce are great owing to their countless numbers and the rapidity with which they multiply, whilst their minuteness leads us to notice them less than we should otherwise do.
2. “The same is true of the creeping things which we see in our gardens or in the fields. Earthworms, for example, though they are small and are often disliked, have a place to fill from which they could not easily be wanted. Land that is subject to frequent floods is poor, it is thought, because the worms have been drowned. By their borings they loosen the soil, while the tiny openings which they make by drawing straws and stalks of leaves admit the rain to the small and feeble roots of plants when they are in search of food. Moreover, when the earth has been washed away by the rain from the sides of hills and other slopes, worms probably provide new soil.
3. “Gardeners who do not know better dislike worms because they spoil their walks, and occasion them a great deal of trouble. Ignorant farmers also would gladly want them because they think that the worms eat their green ears and otherwise damage their crops. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold and hard, and consequently barren. Besides it should be said in favour of worms that green corn, plants, and flowers are not so much injured by them as by many insects in their larva or grub state.”
4. Recently large additions have been made to our knowledge of this apparently insignificant creature, and of the singularly important place it occupies in the great economy of Nature. The body of worms is composed of from 100 to 200 rings, each furnished with minute hairs or bristles.
They have the power of crawliug either backward or forward, and by the aid of their tails, which
are frequently fixed in the mouths of their burrows, they are able to effect a speedy retreat from any danger that may threaten them.
5. Although destitute of eyes they are not wholly insensible to light, if it be directed to the anterior portions of their bodies for a sufficient time and with considerable intensity. The loudest and shrillest sounds, it has been found, produce no impression on them. If, however, the pot containing the worms was placed on the body which was emitting the sound, the vibrations were perceived and seemed to alarm them. The only means they possess of informing themselves of the forms of objects is by moving their bodies about them in all directions.
6. The want of moisture is fatal to worms. Exposed for a single night to the dry air of a warm room they die, whereas they are able to live in water for weeks and even for months. If they leave their burrows at all it is by night. Most frequently, however, they seem, even while crawling about, to secure themselves, as has been already said, by keeping their tails firmly fixed in their burrows.
7. In forming their burrows the worms push the soft soil aside in all directions. Those which are deeper are lined with viscid earth and end in a small chamber. The bottom is not unfrequently paved with small stones and seeds. Thus a comfortable retreat is provided in which to escape the heat of summer as well as the cold of winter. The upper part of the burrow is lined with leaves, and here during the day the worm lies, not for the sake of air so much as warmth, with its head near the surface, ready to be an easy prey to the watchful blackbird or thrush.
8. In regard to the work of the earthworm the astounding fact seems to have been conclusively proved that every
years the entire mass of the vegetable mould which covers the earth's surface passes through the bodies of worms. Some of it is swallowed while they are executing their excavations, still more in their effort to extract from its particles all the vegetable matter it may contain.
9. The effect of this stupendous work is that the land is regularly ploughed by this inconsiderable creature; the mass of the soil is exposed to the air by it, sifted of stones and even manured. Mr. Darwin adopted means to ascertain the amount of mould which is annually brought to the surface from beneath in this way. By careful observations made on a square yard of soil in two different localities he found that in one case the amount displaced would have weighed 71 tons per acre, and in the other 16 tons.
10. A quantity of broken chalk was spread over a small area of pasture-ground for the purpose of observing to what depth it would ultimately be buried. Twenty-nine years after, a trench was dug across the field, when it was found that a line of fragments of chalk could be traced on both sides of the trench at a depth of about seven inches from the surface. In this
way that an inch of mould had been heaped over the chalk every four years. 11. Darwin believes that it is in this
that stones lying on an open pasture are gradually buried in the soil. The undermining of the earth beneath the stones causes them to sink, and gradually they are covered. To this process also we owe the preservation of many of the most valuable remains of antiquity in our country, such as coins, armour, tesselated pavements, and the remains of Roman villas. Moreover the fine mould brought to the surface by the worms is washed away by the rain and borne down to the sea, so that this must be added to the
it would appear
other denudating agencies of nature with which we are familiar— Compiled from Darwin.
Questions on the lesson :-How is it that the effects produced by the smallest insects are so great? Of what other creatures besides insects is this true? In what ways had White observed that worms were useful? Why are they disliked by gardeners? Of what is the worm's body composed? How can worms move? What enables them to retreat quickly to their burrows? What of their relation to light-to sound? How do they acquire knowledge of form? What effect has the want of moisture on worms ? What is said of the making of their burrows? What fact has been ascertained regarding the work of the earthworm? What effects follow from this great work as regards the surface - soil — that below-stones — ancient remains ?
MURDER OF JULIUS CÆSAR.
B.C. 44,-ELEVEN YEARS AFTER HIS FIRST INVASION OF BRITAIN.
1. The eventful day at length arrived. The evening before, Cæsar had supped with a friend and signed according to custom a number of letters as he sat at table. While he was thus employed, the question arose, “What kind of death is to be preferred ?" Cæsar answering before them all, cried out, “A sudden death is best!" Next morning, his wife, Calpurnia, who had dreamed that she was weeping over him as she held him murdered in her arms, implored him not to leave his house, if he could possibly avoid it, but to adjourn the senate.
2. The sacrifices, to which he had recourse for information as to the events of the day, gave no favourable tokens, and accordingly Antony was despatched to dismiss the senate. In the meantime Decimus Brutus ar rived. Fearing that if the senate were adjourned the a fair might be discovered, he laughed at the diviners and pointed out to Cæsar that he would be greatly to blame if by such a slight he gave the senate occasion of complaint against him. “They are met,” he said, “ at your summons, and come prepared with one voice to honour you with the title of king in the provinces, and to grant that you shall wear the diadem both by land and sea everywhere out of Italy. But if one go and tell them, now they have taken their places, that they must go home again and return when Calpurnia happens to have better dreams, what room will your enemies have to launch out against you ?"
3. So saying he took Cæsar by the hand and led him out. The dictator had not gone far, when a slave attempted to reach his ear, but finding it impossible by reason of the crowd that was about him, he made his way into Cæsar's house. Putting himself into the hands of Calpurnia, he desired her to keep him safe till Cæsar's return, because he had matters of importance to communicate. A teacher of Greek in the employment of some of the conspirators had penetrated their secret. He approached Cæsar with a paper which explained what he had discovered. Observing that he gave the papers, as soon as he received them, to his officers, the Greek came up as close as possible and whispered in his ear, “Cæsar, read this to yourself and quickly; the matters it contains are of the last concern to you." however, was never read.
4. When Cæsar entered the House, the senate rose to do him honour. Some of the conspirators gathered behind his chair, others presented themselves before it, pretending to intercede, along with Cimber, for the recall of his brother from exile. As they continued their entreaties even after he had given them a decided refusal, Cæsar became displeased and was about to rise. Cimber