1. The Lost Message

 

The ant has had from time immemorial many enemies, and because he is small and destructive, there have been a great many slaughters among them. Not only are most of the birds their enemies, but Anteater lives almost wholly from them and Centipede attacks them every time and wherever he has the chance.

There were a few among them who thought it would be a good idea to hold council together and see if they could not come to some arrangement whereby they could retreat to some place of safety when attacked by birds and animals.

But at the gathering they all talked at once and could come to no decision.

There was Red-ant, Rice-ant, Black-ant, Wagtail-ant, Gray-ant, Shining-ant, and many other varieties. The discussion was a shouting match, which continued for a long time and came to nothing.

Some said that they should all go into a small hole in the ground, and live there; others wanted to have a large and strong dwelling built in the ground, where nobody could enter but an ant; while some wanted to live in trees, so as to avoid Anteater, forgetting entirely that there they would be the prey of birds; and some wanted to have wings and fly.

And, as has already been said, this discussion amounted to nothing, and each party resolved to go to work in its own way, and bear its own responsibility.

Each separate group worked well together; each had his appointed task, each did his work regularly and well. And all worked together in the same way. From among them they chose a king—that is to say some of the groups did—and they divided the labor so that all went as smoothly as it possibly could.

But each group did it in its own way, and not one of them thought of protecting themselves against the onslaught of birds or Anteater.

The Red-ants built their house on the ground and lived under it, but Anteater leveled to the ground in a minute what had cost them many days of precious labor. The Rice-ants lived under the ground, and with them it went no better. For whenever they came out, Anteater visited them and took them out. The Wagtail-ants fled to the trees, but there on many occasions sat Centipede waiting for them, or the birds gobbled them up. The Gray-ants had intended to save themselves from extermination by taking flight, but this also was to no avail, because the Lizard, the Hunting-spider, and the birds went a great deal faster than they.

When the Insect-king heard that they could come to no agreement he sent them the secret of unity, and the message of cooperation. But unfortunately he chose for his messenger the Beetle, and he has never yet arrived at the Ants, so that they are still today the embodiment of discord and consequently the prey of enemies.