Chapter X. The Psyches: The Cases
Jean-Henri Fabre The Life of the Caterpillar
Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Battus philenor)
THE hatching of the eggs takes place in the first fortnight of July. The little grubs measure about one twenty-fifth of an inch. Their head and the upper part of the first thoracic segment are a glossy black, the next two segments brownish and the rest of the body a pale amber. Sharp, lively little creatures, who run about with short, quick steps, they swarm all over the spongy, hairy tissue resulting from the cast-oft clothing of the eggs.
The books tell me that the little Psyches begin by eating up their mother: a loathsome banquet for which the said books must accept responsibility. I see nothing of the sort; and I do not even understand how the idea arose. The mother bequeaths to her sons her case, whose straws are searched for wadding, the material of the first coat; out of her chrysalid slough and her skin she makes them a two-fold shelter for the hatching-time; with her down she prepares a defensive barricade for them and a place wherein to wait before emerging. Thus all is given, all spent with a view to the future. Save for some thin, dry strips which my lens can only with difficulty distinguish, there is nothing left that could provide a cannibal feast for so numerous a family.
No, my little Psyches, you do not eat your mother. In vain do I watch you: never, either to clothe or to feed himself, does any one of you lay a tooth upon the remains of the deceased. The maternal skin is left untouched, as are those other insignificant relics, the layer of muscular tissue and the network of air-ducts. The sack left behind by the chrysalis also remains intact.
The time comes to quit the natal wallet. An outlet has been contrived long beforehand, saving the youngsters from committing any act of violence against what was once their mother. There is no sacrilegious cutting to be done with the shears; the door opens of itself.
When she was a wriggling speck of sausage, the mother's front segments were remarkably translucent, forming a contrast with the rest of the body. This was very probably a sign of a less dense and less tough texture than elsewhere. The sign is not misleading. The dry gourd to which the mother is now reduced has for a neck those diaphanous rings, which, as they withered, became extremely fragile. Does this neck, this operculum fall of its own accord, or is it pushed off by the pigmies impatient. to get away? I do not know for certain. This, however, I can say, that blowing on it is enough to make it drop off.
In anticipation therefore of the emergence, an exceedingly easy and perhaps even spontaneous method of decapitation is prepared in the mother's lifetime. To manufacture a delicate neck for yourself so that you may be easily beheaded at the proper time and thus leave the way free to the youngsters is an act of devotion in which the most unconscious maternal affection stands sublimely revealed. That miserable maggot, that sausage Moth, scarce able to crawl and yet so clear-sighted where the future is concerned, staggers the mind of any one who knows how to think.
The brood emerge from the natal wallet through the window just opened by the fall of the head. The chrysalid sack, the second wrapper, presents no obstacle; it has remained open since the adult Psyche left it. Next comes the mass of eiderdown, the heap of fluff of which the mother stripped herself. Here the little caterpillars stop. Much more spaciously and comfortably lodged than in the bag whence they have come, some take a rest, others bustle about, exercise themselves in walking. All pick up strength in preparation for their exodus into the daylight.
They do not stay long amid this luxury. Gradually, as they gain vigour, they come out and spread over the surface of the case. Work begins at once, a very urgent work, that of the wardrobe. The first mouthfuls will come afterwards, when we are dressed.
Montaigne, when putting on the cloak which his father had worn before him, used a touching expression. He said:
„I dress myself in my father.“
The young Psyches in the same way dress themselves in their mother: they cover themselves with the clothes left behind by the deceased, they scrape from it the wherewithal to make themselves a cotton frock. The material employed is the pith of the little stalks, especially of the pieces which, split lengthwise, are more easily stripped of their contents. The grub first finds a spot to suit it. Having done so, it gleans, it planes with its mandibles. Thus a superbly white wadding is extracted from old logs.
The manner of beginning the garment is worth noting. The tiny creature employs as judicious a method as any which our own industry could hope to discover. The wadding is collected in infinitesimal pellets. How are these little particles to be fixed as and when they are detached by the shears of the mandibles? The manufacturer needs a support, a base; and this support cannot be obtained on the caterpillar's own body, for any adherence would be seriously embarrassing and would hamper freedom of movement. The difficulty is overcome very cleverly. Scraps of plush are gathered and by degrees fastened to one another with threads of silk. This forms a sort of rectilinear garland in which the particles collected swing from a common rope. When these preparations are deemed sufficient, the little creature passes the garland round its waist, at about the third segment of the thorax, so as to leave its six legs free; then it ties the two ends with a bit of silk. The result is a girdle, generally incomplete, but soon completed with other scraps fastened to the silk ribbon that carries everything.
This girdle is the base of the work, the support. Henceforth, to lengthen the piece, to enlarge it into the perfect garment, the grub has only to fix, always at the fore-edge, with the aid of its spinnerets, now at the top, now at the bottom or side, the scraps of pith which the mandibles never cease extracting. Nothing could be better thought out than this initial garland laid out flat and then buckled like a belt around the loins.
Once this base is laid, the weaving-loom is in full swing. The piece woven is first a tiny string around the waist; next, by the addition of fresh pellets, always at the fore-edge, it grows into a scarf, a waistcoat, a short jacket and lastly a sack, which gradually makes its way backwards, not of itself, but through the action of the weaver, who slips forward in the part of the case already made. In a few hours, the garment is completed. It is by that time a conical hood, a cloak of magnificent whiteness and finish.
We now know all about it. On leaving the maternal hut, without searching, without distant expeditions which would be so danger. ous at that age, the little Psyche finds in the tender beams of the roof the wherewithal to clothe himself. He is spared the perils of roaming in a state of nudity. When he leaves the house, he will be quite warm, thanks to the mother, who takes care to instal her family in the old case and gives it choice materials to work with.
If the grub-worm were to drop out of the hovel, if some gust of wind swept him to a distance, most often the poor mite would be lost. Ligneous straws, rich in pith, dry and retted to a turn, are not to be found everywhere. It would mean the impossibility of any clothing and, in that dire poverty, an early death. But, if suitable materials are encountered, equal in quality to those bequeathed by the mother, how is it that the exile is unable to make use of them? Let us look into this.
I segregate a few new-born grubs in a glass tube and give them for their materials some split pieces of straw, picked from among the old stalks of a sort of dandelion, Pterotheca nemausensis. Though robbed of the inheritance of the maternal manor, the grubs seem very well satisfied with my bits. Without the least hesitation, they scrape out of them a superb white pith and make it into a delicious cloak, much handsomer than that which they would have obtained with the ruins of the native house, this latter cloak being always more or less flawed with darker materials, whose colour has been impaired by long exposure to the air. On the other hand, the Nimes dandelion, a relic of last spring, has its central part, which I myself lay bare, a spotless white; and the cotton nightcap achieves the very perfection of whiteness.
I obtain an even better result with rounds of sorghum-pith taken from the kitchen-broom. This time, the work has glittering crystalline points and looks like a thing built of grains of sugar. It is my manufacturers' masterpiece.
These two successes authorize me to vary the raw material still further. In the absence of new-born caterpillars, who are not always at my disposal, I employ grubs which I have undressed, that is to say, which I have taken out of their caps. To these divested ones I give, as the only thing to work upon, a strip of paper free from paste and easy to pick to pieces, in short, a piece of blotting-paper.
Here again there is no hesitation. The grubs lustily scrape this surface, new to them though it be, and make themselves a paper coat of it. Cadet Roussel, fictitious character, a sort of dolt, created by some wit in a French regiment quartered in Brabant about the year 1792. Cadet Roussel's entertaining exploits were perpetuated in a contemporary ballad.--Translator's Note. of famous memory, had a coat of similar stuff, but much less fine and silky. My paper-clad charges are so well-pleased with their materials that they scorn their native case, when it is afterwards placed at their disposal, and continue to scrape lint from the industrial product.
Others are given nothing in their tube, but are able to get at the cork that closes the glass dwelling-house. This is enough. The undraped ones hasten to scrape the cork, to break it into atoms and out of these to make themselves a granulated frock, as faultlessly elegant as though their race had always made use of this material. The novelty of the stuff, employed perhaps for the first time, has made no change in the cut of the coat.
To sum up, they accept any vegetable matter that is dry, light and not too resistant. Would they behave likewise towards animal materials and especially mineral materials, on condition that these are of a suitable thinness? I take a Great Peacock's wing, left over from my experiments in the nuptial telegraphy of this Moth, Chapter XI. of the present volume.--Translator's Note. and cut from it a strip on which I place, at the bottom of a tube, two little caterpillars stripped of their clothing. The two prisoners have nothing else at their disposal. Any drapery that they want must be got out of this scaly expanse.
They hesitate for a long time in the presence of that strange carpet. In twenty-four hours' time, one of the caterpillars has started no work and seems resolved to let himself die, naked as he is. The other, stouter-hearted, or perhaps less injured by the brutal stripping-process, explores the slip for a little while and at last resolves to make use of it. Before the day is over, he has clothed himself in grey velvet out of the Great Peacock's scales. Considering the delicacy of the materials, the work is exquisitely correct.
Let us go a step farther in our explorations. For the soft, yielding wadding collected from a plant, or the down gleaned from the wing of a Moth, we will substitute rough stone. In their final state, I know, the Psyches' cases are often laden with grains of sand and earthy particles; but these are accidental bricks, which have been inadvertently touched by the spinneret and incorporated unintentionally in the thatch. The delicate creatures know too well the drawbacks of a pebbly pillow to seek the support of stone. Mineral matter is distasteful to them; and it is mineral matter that now has to be worked like wool.
True, I select such stones in my collection as are least out of keeping with the feeble powers of my grubs. I possess a specimen of flaky hematite. At the merest touch of a hair-pencil it breaks into atoms almost as minute as the dust which a Butterfly's wing leaves on our fingers. On a bed of this material, which glitters like a steel filing, I establish four young caterpillars extracted from their clothing. I foresee a check in this experiment and consequently increase the number of my subjects.
It is as I thought. The day passes and the four caterpillars remain bare. Next day, however, one, one alone, decides to clothe himself. His work is a tiara with metallic facets, in which the light plays with flashes of every colour of the rainbow. It is very rich, very sumptuous, but mightily heavy and cumbrous. Walking becomes laborious under that load of metal. Even so must a Byzantine emperor have progressed at ceremonies of state, after donning his gold-worked dalmatic.
Poor little creature! More sensible than man, you did not select that ridiculous magnificence of your own free will; it was I who forced it on you. Here, to make amends, is a disk of sorghum-pith. Fling off your proud tiara, thrust it from you quickly and place in its stead a cotton night-cap, which is much healthier. This is done on the second day.
The Psyche has his favourite materials when starting as a manufacturer: a vegetable lint collected from any ligneous scrap well softened by the air, a lint usually supplied by the old roof of the maternal hut. In the absence of the regulation fabric, he is able to make use of animal velvet, in particular of the scaly fluff of a Moth. In case of necessity, he does not shrink from acts of sheer madness: he weaves mineral matter, so urgent is his need to clothe himself.
This need outweighs that of nourishment. I take a young caterpillar from his grazing-ground, a leaf of very hairy hawkweed which, after many attempts, I have found to suit him as food because of its green blade and as wool because of its white fleece. I take him, I say, from his refectory and leave him to fast for a couple of days. Then I strip him and put him back on his leaf. And I see him, unmindful of eating, in spite of his long fast, first labouring to make himself a new coat by collecting the hairs of the hawkweed. His appetite will be satisfied afterwards.
Is he then so susceptible to cold? We are in the midst of the dog-days. The sun shoots down a fiery torrent that brings the wild concert of the Cicad? up to fever-pitch. In the baking heat of the study where I am questioning my animals, I have flung off hat and necktie and am working in my shirt-sleeves; and, in this oven, what the Psyche clamours for is, above all things, a warm covering. Well, little shiverer, I will satisfy you!
I expose him to the direct rays of the sun, on the window-ledge. This time, it is too much of a good thing; I have gone beyond all bounds. The sun-scorched one wriggles about, flourishes his abdomen, always a sign of discomfort. But the making of the hawk-weed cassock is not suspended on this account; on the contrary, it is pursued more hurriedly than ever. Could this be because of the excessive light? Is not the cotton-wool bag a retreat wherein the caterpillar isolates himself, sheltering from the importunities of broad daylight, and gently digests and sleeps? Let us get rid of the light, while retaining a warm temperature.
After a preliminary stripping, the little caterpillars are now lodged in a cardboard box, which I place in the sunniest corner of my window. The temperature here is well over 100 degrees F. No matter: the swan's-down sack is remade at a sitting of a few hours. Tropical heat and the quiet that goes with darkness have made no difference in the insect's habits.
Neither the degree of heat nor the degree of light explains the pressing need of raiment. Where are we to seek the reason for that hurry to get clad? I can see none save a presentiment of the future. The Psyche caterpillar has the winter before him. He knows nothing of a common shelter in a silken purse, of cabins among close-touching leaves, of underground cells, of retreats under old cracked bark, of hairy roofs, of cocoons, in short of the different methods employed by other caterpillars to protect themselves against the severity of the weather. He has to spend the winter exposed to the inclemencies of the air. This peril causes his particular talent.
He builds himself a roof whose imbricated and diverging stalks will allow cold dews and drops of melted snow to trickle away at a distance, when the case is fixed and hanging vertically. Under this covering, he weaves a thick silk lining, which will make a soft mattress and a rampart against the effects of the cold. Once these precautions are taken, the winter may come and the north wind rage: the Psyche is sleeping peacefully in his hut.
But all this is not improvised as the stormy season approaches. It is a delicate work which takes time to carry out. All his life-long the caterpillar labours at it, improving it, adding to it, strengthening it incessantly. And, in order to acquire greater skill, he begins his apprenticeship at the moment when he leaves the egg. As preliminary practice for the thick overcoat of full-grown age, he tries his hand on cotton capes. Even so does the Pine Processionary, as soon as hatched, weave first delicate tents, then gauzy cupolas, as harbingers of the mighty wallet in which the community will make its home. Both alike are harassed from the day of their birth by the presentiment of the future; they start life by binding themselves apprentices to the trade that is to safeguard them one day.
No, the Psyche is not more sensitive to cold than any other smooth-skinned caterpillar; he is a creature of foresight. Deprived in winter of the shelters granted to the others, he prepares himself, from his birth, for the building of a home that will be his salvation and practises for it by making fripperies of wadding suited to his strength. He foresees the rigours of winter during the blazing dog-days.
They are now all clad, my young caterpillars, numbering nearly a thousand. They wander restlessly in large glass receptacles, closed with a sheet of glass. What do you seek, little ones, swinging your pretty, snow-white cloaks as you go? Food, of course. After all that fatigue, you need refreshment. Despite vour numbers, you will not be too heavy a burden on my resources: you can manage with so little! But what do you ask for? You certainly do not count on me for your supplies. In the open fields you would have found victuals to your liking much more easily than I can hope to find them for you. Since my wish to know all about you places you in my charge, I have a duty which I must observe: that of feeding you. What do you want?
The part of Providence is a very difficult one to play. The purveyor of foodstuffs, thinking of the morrow, taking his precautions so that the home may be always more or less supplied, performs the most deserving but also the most laborious of functions. The little ones watt trustingly, persuaded that things happen of themselves, while he anxiously resorts to every kind of ingenuity and trouble, wondering whether the right thing will come. Ah, how well long practice has taught me to know the trade, with all its worries and all its joys!
Behold me to-day the Providence of a thousand nurselings thrust upon me by my studies. I try a little of everything. The tender leaves of the elm appear to suit. If I serve them up one day, I find them next morning nibbled on the surface, in small patches. Tiny grains of impalpable black dust, scattered here and there, tell me that the intestines have been at work. This gives me a moment of satisfaction which will be readily understood by any breeder of a herd whose diet is unknown. The hope of success gains strength: I know how to feed my vermin. Have I discovered the best method at the first attempt? I dare not think so.
I continue therefore to vary the fare, but the results hardly come up to my wishes. The flock refuses my assorted green stuff and even ends by taking a dislike to the elm-leaves. I am beginning to believe that I have failed utterly, when a happy inspiration occurs to me. I have recognized among the bits that go to form the case a few fragments of the mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella). So the Psyche frequents that plant. Why should he not browse it? Let us try.
The mouse-ear displays its little round flowers in profusion in a stony field just beside my house, at the foot of the wall where I have so often found Psyche-cases hanging I gather a handful and distribute it among my different folds. This time the food-problem is solved. The Psyches forthwith settle in solid masses on the hairy leaves and nibble at them greedily in small patches, in which the epidermis of the other surface remains untouched.
We will leave them to their grazing, with which they seem quite satisfied, and ask ourselves a certain question relating to cleanliness. How does the little Psyche get rid of his digestive refuse? Remember that he is enclosed in a sack. One dare not entertain the thought of ordure ejected and accumulating at the far end of the dazzling white plush cap. Filth cannot dwell under so elegant a covering. How is the sordid evacuation managed?
Despite the fact that it ends in a conical point, in which the lens reveals no break of continuity, the sack is not closed at the hinder end. Its method of manufacture, by means of a waistband whose fore-edge increases in dimensions in proportion as the rear-edge is pushed farther back, proves this sufficiently. The hinder end becomes pointed simply owing to the shrinking of the material, which contracts of itself at the part where the caterpillar's decreasing diameter no longer distends it. There is thus at the point a permanent hole whose lips remain closed. The caterpillar has only to go a little way back and the stuff expands, the hole widens, the road is open and the excretions fall to the ground. On the other hand, so soon as the caterpillar takes a step forward into his case, the rubbish-shoot closes of itself. It is a very simple and very ingenious mechanism, as good as anything contrived by our seamstresses to cope with the shortcomings of a boy's first pair of breeches.
Meanwhile the grub grows and its tunic continues to fit it, is neither too large nor too small, but just the right size. How is this done? If the text-books were to be credited, I might expect to see the caterpillar split his sheath lengthwise when it became too tight and afterwards enlarge it by means of a piece is what our tailors do; hut it is not the Psyches' method at all. They know something much better. They keep on working at their coat, which is old at the back, new in front and always a perfect fit for the growing body.
Nothing is easier than to watch the daily progress in size. A few caterpillars have just made themselves a hood of sorghum-pith. The work is perfectly beautiful; it might have been woven out of snow-flakes. I isolate these smartly-dressed ones and give them as weaving-materials some brown scales chosen from the softest parts that I can find in old bark. Between morning and evening, the hood assumes a new appearance: the tip of the cone is still a spotless white, but all the front part is coarse drapery, very different in colouring from the original plush. Next day, the sorghum felt has wholly disappeared and is replaced, from one end of the cone to the other, by a frieze of bark.
I then take away the brown materials and put sorghum-pith in their stead. This time the coarse, dark stuff retreats gradually towards the top of the hood, while the soft, white stuff gains in width, starting from the mouth. Before the day is over, the original elegant mitre will be reconstructed entirely.
This alternation can be repeated as often as we please. Indeed, by shortening each period of work, we can easily obtain, with the two sorts of material, composite products, showing alternate light and dark belts.
The Psyche, as you see, in no way follows the methods of our tailors, with their piece taken out and another piece let in. In order to have a coat always to his size, he never ceases working at it. The particles collected are constantly being fixed just at the edge of the sack, so that the new drapery increases progressively in dimensions, keeping pace with the caterpillar's growth. At the same time the old stuff recedes, is driven back towards the tip of the cone. Here, through its own springiness, it contracts and closes the muff. Any surplus matter disintegrates, falls into shreds and gradually disappears as the insect roams about and knocks against the things which it meets. The case, new at the front and old at the back, is never too tight because it is always being renewed.
After the very hot period of the year, there comes a moment when light wraps are no longer seasonable. Autumnal rains threaten, followed by winter frosts. It is time to make ourselves a thick great-coat with a cape of thatch arranged in a series of waterproof tippets. It begins with a great lack of accuracy. Straws of uneven length and bits of dry leaves are fastened, with no attempt at order, behind the neck of the sack, which must still retain its flexibility so as to allow the caterpillar to bend freely in every direction.
Few as yet, rather short and placed anyhow, sometimes lengthways and sometimes across, these untidy first logs of the roof will not interfere with the final regularity of the building: they are destined to disappear and will be pushed back and be driven out at last as the sack grows in front.
Later on, when the pieces are longer and better-chosen, they are all carefully laid longitudinally. The placing of a straw is done with surprising quickness and dexterity. If the log which he has found suits him, the caterpillar takes it between his legs and turns it round and round. Gripping it with his mandibles by one end, as a rule he removes a few morsels from this part and immediately fixes them to the neck of the sack. His object in laying bare the raw and rough surfaces, to which the silk will stick better, may be to obtain a firmer hold. Even so the plumber gives a touch of the file at the point that is to be soldered.
Then, by sheer strength of jaw, the caterpillar lifts his beam, brandishes it in the air and, with a quick movement of his rump, lays it on his back. The spinneret at once sets to work on the end caught. And the thing is done: without any groping about or correcting, the log is added to the others, in the direction required.
The fine days of autumn are spent in toil of this kind, performed leisurely and intermittently, when the stomach is full. By the time that the cold weather arrives, the house is ready. When the air is once more warm, the Psyche resumes his walks abroad: he roams along the paths, strolls over the friendly greensward, takes a few mouthfuls and then, when the hour has come, prepares for his transformation by hanging from the wall.
These springtime wanderings, long after the case is completely finished, made me want to know if the caterpillar would be capable of repeating his sack-weaving and roof-building operations. I take him out of his case and place him, stark naked, on a bed of fine, dry sand. I give him as materials to work with some old stalks of Nimes dandelion, cut up into sticks of the same length as the pieces that make the case.
The evicted insect disappears under the heap of ligneous straws and hurriedly starts spinning, taking as pegs for its cords anything that its lips encounter: the bed of sand underfoot, the canopy of twigs overhead. So doing, it binds together, in extricable confusion, all the pieces touched by the spinneret, long and short, light and heavy, at random. In the centre of this tangled scaffolding, a work is pursued of a quite different nature from that of hut-building. The caterpillar weaves and does nothing else, not even attempting to assemble into a proper roofing the materials of which he is able to dispose.
The Psyche owning a perfect case, when he resumes his activity with the fine weather, scorns his old trade as an assembler of logs, a trade practised so zealously during the previous summer. Now that his stomach is satisfied and his silk-glands distended, he devotes his spare time solely to improving the quilting of his case. The silky felt of the interior is never thick or soft enough to please him. The thicker and softer it is, the better for his own comfort during the process of transformation and for the safety of his family afterwards.
Well, my knavish tricks have now robbed him of everything. Does he perceive the disaster? Though the silk and timber at his disposal permit, does he dream of rebuilding the shelter, so essential first to his chilly back and secondly to his family, who will cut it up to make their first home? Not a bit of it. He slips under the mass of twigs where I let it fall and there begins to work exactly as he would have done under normal conditions.
This shapeless roof and this sand on which the jumble of rafters are lying now represent to the Psyche the walls of the regulation home; and, without in any way modifying his labours to meet the exigencies of the moment, the caterpillar upholsters the surfaces within his reach with the same zest that he would have displayed in adding new layers to the quilted lining which has disappeared. Instead of being pasted on the proper wall, the present hangings come in contact with the rough surface of the sand and the hopeless tangle of the straws; and the spinner takes no notice.
The house is worse than ruined: it no longer exists. No matter: the caterpillar continues his actual work; he loses sight of the real and upholsters the imaginary. other instances of what Fabre calls „the insect's mental incapacity in the presence of the accidental“ I would refer the reader to one essay inter alia, entitled, Some Reflections upon Insect Psychology, which forms chap. vii. of The Mason-bees.--Translator's Note. And yet everything ought to apprise him of the absence of any roofing. The sack with which he has managed to cover himself, very skilfully for that matter, is lamentably flabby. It sags and rumples at every movement of the insect's body. Moverover, it is made heavy with sand and bristles with spikes in every direction, which catch in the dust of the road and make all progress impossible. Thus anchored to the ground, the caterpillar wastes his strength in efforts to shift his position. It takes him hours to make a start and to move his cumbrous dwelling a fraction of an inch.
With his normal case, in which all the beams are imbricated from front to back with scientific precision, he gets along very nimbly. His collection of logs, all fixed in front and all free at the back, forms a boat-shaped sledge which slips and glides through obstacles without difficulty. But, though progress be easy, retreat is impracticable, for each piece of the framework causes the thing to stop, owing to its free end.
Well, the sack of my victim is covered with laths pointing this way and that, just in the position in which they happened to be caught by the spinneret, as it fastened its threads here and there, indiscriminately. The bits in front are so many spurs which dig into the sand and neutralize all efforts to advance; the bits at the side are rakes whose resistance cannot be overcome. In such conditions, the insect is bound to be stranded and to perish on the spot.
If I were advising the caterpillar, I should say:
„Go back to the art in which you excel; arrange your bundle neatly; point the cumbrous pieces lengthwise, in an orderly fashion; do something to your sack, which hangs too loosely; give it the necessary stiffness with a few props to act as a husk; do now, in your distress, what you knew so well how to do before; summon up your old carpentering-talents and you will be saved.“
Useless advice! The time for carpentry is over. The hour has come for upholstering; and he upholsters obstinately, padding a house which no longer exists. He will perish miserably, cut up by the Ants, as the result of his too-rigid instinct.
Many other instances have already told us as much. Like running water which does not climb slopes and which does not flow back to its source, the insect never retraces its actions. What is done is done and cannot be recommenced. The Psyche, but now a clever carpenter, will die for want of knowing how to fix a beam.