Page:Diary of ten years.djvu/219

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


my cabbages and peas as fast as they recover, so that I find myself induced to exchange them for sheep; but I am unwilling to part altogether with the breed of my old Bessy, whom I brought out of the Cleopatra on my first arrival.

The natives have had some row among themselves: one of them has come to tell us that Ya-gan is the person who has been doing all the mischief; that he killed my pig, and speared two of Mr. Burgess's; and declares that he will kill cows, sheep, and every living thing he can come at; if the white people will accompany my informant with a strong party, well armed, he will lead them within a short distance of Ya-gan, so as to take him. Now, whether they find Ya-gan interfering with their assumed privileges of plundering us, or encroaching on their grounds, or are really in earnest in their desire to prevent mischief to our flocks, it is an opportunity that ought to be taken instant advantage of.

I have a piece of natural history for you, regarding the white ants.

These make their approaches so stealthily under their covered ways, and, like the wise Dutch, at Antwerp, on a late occasion, so keep within their strong casemates as to be tolerably secure from observation, as well as annoyance. I had an opportunity lately of seeing some of their domestic arrangements, the description of which may interest you.

Upon the brow of a small rounded eminence there stood a sort of a pillar of clay, about five feet high, which had once filled up the centre of a hollowed tree; the shell of which had been from time to time broken and burned away. This pillar was the work of white ants. As it interfered with the working of the plough, I commenced breaking and digging it down; not without some small curiosity. Numbers of centipedes were found about the outside, where pieces of the wood still remained. The clay, which was surprisingly stiff, hard, and dry, broke off in large fragments. At length, near the level of the surface of the ground, a rounded crust was un-