Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/596

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570
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

MYRIAPODS.
By MAJOR HOLLAND, R. M. L. I.

PLEASE, sir, here's one of them nasty mischiefull many-legs as I told you pisened the melon-bed so as we never got nothink off of 'em. Nobody can't say as they wasn't took care of, for I was a waterin' and a waterin' on 'em mornin', noon, and night, all along the droughty summer. It stands reasonable like to natur' as water-melons should take a sight o' water; 'twasn't my overdoin' on 'em with m'isture as rotted the roots off; 'twas these here plaguey varmint!"

Having delivered this oration, and proved to his own entire satisfaction "as how he was right all along, and master was mistook" about poor Curcurbita citrullus having been drenched to death with icy pump-water, the obstinate old gardener deposited his writhing scape-goat on the study-table, and retired triumphant to the coach-house, where he whistled loud pæans of victory to the Bramahs and Cochins of the stable-yard.

What yellow-brown Myriapod is this? His flexible body, which he is tying into all manner of knots, is composed of no fewer than eighty-one distinct segments, to say nothing of the odd one at the end of the tail, and the five which have coalesced to form the head. If we count these five fused segments as one (as we do the four which Prof. Huxley tells us combine together to make up our own human brain-boxes), then his body is made up of eighty-three somites, of which the cephalic, the anterior-thoracic, which bears that terrible pair of hooked maxillipedes, and the anal, are the only three presenting any marked differences from each other, and from the eighty others which are as "strictly uniform" as the helmets of the metropolitan police.

How the fellow shuns the light! Does his conscience trouble him? Does he feel himself guilty of "pisenin'" the melons, that he wriggles so uneasily until he succeeds in burying himself out of sight in the silk tassel of the pen-wiper? A burrowing troglodyte by nature, I suspect, and on closer examination he proves to be such—Geophilus subterraneus (underground earth-lover), of the family Geophilidœ, of the subdivision Chilopoda (foot-feeders), of the order Myriapoda, of the class Articulata, according to Newport.

He has no eyes; he doesn't want any; he passes his life in the dark, underground, tearing up old shreds of farmyard manure and vegetable matter, always preferring scavengers' work when he can get it, and doing good service by eating up the helpless, soft, succulent larvæ of the hosts of insects that prey upon our crops. The sins of the wire-worm have been laid to his charge; his third cousins the Iulidœ do undoubtedly steal our potato "sets," and bore into young peas, or rather into old peas just "splitting" and about to send up