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Saw the old Nokomis slowly
Then he sat down, still and speechless,
With both hands his face he covered,
Then they buried Minnehaha;
And at night a fire was lighted,
Lighting up the gloomy hemlocks;
“Farewell !” said he, “Minnehaha !
H. W. Longfellow,
It was a night of anxiety in the kraal 1 of the field-cornet. Should the wind veer round to the west, to a certainty the locusts would cover his land in the morning, and the result would be the
* From The Bush-boys. By kind permission of Messrs. George Routledge & Sons,
total destruction of his crops. Perhaps worse than that. Perhaps the whole vegetation around-for fifty miles or more—might be destroyed; and then how would his cattle be fed ? It would be no easy matter even to save their lives. They might perish before he could drive them to any other pasturage!
Such a thing was by no means uncommon or improbable. In the history of the Cape' colony many a Boor2 had lost his flocks in this very way. No wonder there was anxiety that night in the kraal of the field-cornet.
At intervals Von Bloom went out to ascertain whether there was any change in the wind. Up to a late hour he could perceive none. A gentle breeze still blew from the north—from the great Kalihari desert—whence, no doubt, the locusts had come. The moon was bright, and her light gleamed over the host of insects that darkly covered the plain. The roar of the lion could be heard mingling with the shrill scream of the jackal and the maniac laugh of the hyena. All these beasts, and many more, were enjoying a plenteous repast.
Perceiving no change in the wind, Von Bloom became less uneasy, and they all conversed freely about the locusts. Swartboy took a leading part in this conversation, as hë was better acquainted with the subject than any of them. It was far from being the first flight of locusts Swartboyi had seen,
and many a bushel of them had he eaten: It was natural to suppose, therefore, that he knew a good deal about them.
He knew not whence they came. That was a
point about which Swartboy had never troubled himself. The learned Hans offered an explanation of their origin.
“They come from the desert,” said he. eggs, from which they are produced, are, deposited in the sands or dust; where they lie until rain falls, and causes the herbage to spring up. Then the locusts are hatched, and in their first stage are supported, upon this herbage.. When it becomes exhausted, they are compelled to go in search of food. Hence these migrations, as they are called."
This explanation seemed clear enough. "Now I have heard," said Hendrik, “of farmers kindling fires around their crops to keep off the locusts. I can't see how fires would keep them off--not even if a regular fence of fire were made all round a field. These creatures have wings, and could easily, fly, over the fires....
“The fires,” replied Hans," are kindled in order that the smoke may prevent them from alighting; but the locusts to which these accounts usually refer are without wings, called voetgangers (footgoers). They are, in fact, the larve of these locusts, before they have obtained their wings. These have also their migrations, that are often more destructive than those of the perfect insects, such as we see here. They proceed over the ground by crawling and leaping like grasshoppers ; for, indeed, they are grasshoppers—a species of them. They keep on in one direction, as if they were guided by instinct to follow a particular course. Nothing can interrupt them in their onward march unless the sea or some broad and rapid river. Small streams they can swim across; and large ones, too, where they run sluggishly; walls and houses they can climb even the chimneys-going straight over them; and the moment they have reached the other side of any obstacle, they continue straight onward in the old direction.
"In attempting to cross broad rapid rivers, they are drowned in countless myriads, and swept off to the sea. When it is only a small migration, the farmers sometimes keep them off by means of fires, as you have heard. On the contrary, when large numbers appear, even the fires are of no avail.”
“But how is that, brother?" inquired Hendrik. “I can understand how fires would stop the kind you speak of, since you say they are without wings. But since they are so, how do they get through the fires? Jump them?"
“No, not so," replied Hans. “The fires are built too wide and large for that."
“How then, brother ?” asked Hendrik. "I'm puzzled."
“So am I," said little Jan. “And I,” added Trüey.
“Well, then,” continued Hans, “millions of the insects crawl into the fires and put them out!”
“Ho!” cried all in astonishment. “How? Are they not burned ?”
'Of course," replied Hans. “They are scorched and killed-myriads of them quite burned up. But their bodies crowded thickly on the fires choke